THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT – C
Today is GAUDETE SUNDAY, a day of rejoicing!
After listening to St. John the Baptist who speaks to us “heart to heart”, like his listeners from the different strata of life during his time, we also ask WHAT SHALL WE DO?
First of all, the call to holiness is universal as Vatican II teaches us; it permeates the different strata of our society. Our following of Jesus does not always mean leaving the world, our families or careers in order to enter into a more spiritual walk of life like entering the convent, seminary or a monastery. Discipleship is the call to holiness within the secular lives that we have chosen as long as we follow the gospel value of Jesus.
Secondly, the voice of John the Baptist is not only heard during Advent although it becomes more relevant during this season when we stop in our life’s journey like a spiritual retreat in order to evaluate our value system before we step further on. Because conversion is a continuous call, like a journey, it will always be an on-going process of transcending the old self towards a better way of living. It is like a pulsating energy that draws us closer to perfection. If this is true, then conversion is not just about feeling good, not even being “spiritually high” but something that we work on even after having done something good before.
Listening to the voice of John the Baptist in the present time, if I am a soldier or a lawyer then I have to defend the weak, the innocent and the helpless; if I am a mother or father then I have to nourish and educate my children; if I am a teacher then I have to pass on the knowledge and wisdom to my students; if I am a politician then I have to serve unselfishly my constituents; the examples go on and on…. Our profession is not just about getting our bread and butter for our survival but a way of doing justice and charity to others. Our career is not just about self-aggrandizement but giving back to others what they deserve through service.
Holiness is not just limited in the confines of the church, it permeates through the ordinariness of our secular lives beyond religion. Because of this, we can all be saints in the eyes of God only if we are able to live the way God wants us to be.
Later on Jesus would be praising John Baptist by saying “No man born of a woman is greater than John the Baptist…” and yet the greatness of John the Baptist did not get into his head. He knew his place and would not grab the opportunity of self-canonization towards egotism: “I am not worthy to untie his sandals…” John the Baptist is the perfect example of Christian humility, not of self-abasement. He acknowledges his prophetic mission but he puts Jesus in the centre of things. He gives a lesson most especially to people who are given more opportunities in life: the higher we go up in the ladder, the smaller we become for those who are below us. We may call this as “diminutive spirituality.” We do not become bigger than others just because we are higher in the ladder. On the other hand we do not falsely accuse ourselves of being close to nothing simply because we are at the base of the ladder. The self should never be the standard to measure up things. Jesus should be the centre which is the ultimate criterion by which someone or something is judged or recognized. If we are able to do this, we can truly rejoice because we are gradually molding ourselves into the resemblance of Christ.