3d Advent SundayC (17 Dec 2006) Zeph 3.14-18a; Resp. Is 12.2-3,4,5-6; Phil 4.4-7;
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
When John Spoke, People Acted
What ought we to do? In rights and responsibi-lities language ought is an important word. Rights and responsibilities go hand in hand; rights engender responsiblities. For example: right to free speech entails my responsibility to speak honestly, even to defend one about whom others speak unfairly; or, my right to medical care obliges me not to put my health at risk.
In this language of rights and responsibilities, underneath the word ought rests relationship. We owe one another. Senator Christopher Dodd’s statement is a fine example:
We owe it to each other--and to our children and grandchildren--to leave our planet in a better state than when we found it./1/Mother Theresa said something which more keenly emphasized relationships in Christ:
Only in heaven will we see how much we owe to the poor for helping us to love God better because of them./2/Rights without responsibilities is not liberty. Rights without responsibilities guarantees a journey...marked by the lure of false forms of freedom and hollow promises of hope.”/3/
This is what the people questioning John the Baptizer sought: not the milestones of false forms of freedom but true freedom. They located the promise and hope of true freedom in the prophet’s call to repent, literally, to change their minds; to reorient their vision, beginning with their inner eye, which sees the most real.
Their conversation contained in today’s gospel names stunningly simple and sincere ways to live truly free: one ought to live in charity; be fair with all people; and not to denounce others but to treat all respectfully.
John, the forerunner of Jesus, invites us to consider thoughtfully and prayerfully how John might answer us. How can we best be charitable?
As we consider our own circumstances, John could answer our question about what ought we do with so much, saying,“Survey your closets and whatever you haven’t worn in a year clean, fold and put in the St. Vincent dePaul collection-box at the Conover-edge of Gesu’s parking lot”
How are we to be fair with all people? After thoughtfully and prayerfully considering our standing in life and our blessings, John may reply to us,
“Remember your privileges in life--you have influence to change the world. Bless the world with your blessings and never over-look an opportunity to better it for the good of all.”Being fair is not tit-for-tat. For us Catholics being fair anticipates others needs and quickly shares their joys and their sorrows.
How do we treat others with respect? Perhaps the answer John would offer us 21st-century citizens of the United States, might be,
“Begin by treating yourself with the respect which will make you more humane, which will make you more receptive to Jesus’ spirit, whose kindness should be known to all through you, as my future colleague of the good news, St. Paul, beautifully put it.”Respect means honoring ouselves so much that we choose carefully what influences us. If we choose well so that we are well-formed, we will be good influences for others and sources for their joy and renewed purpose.
In the 10 minutes you set aside each day this week, entrust yourself to the Trinity. Calm yourself in their embrace. Ask John the Baptizer to accompany you. See yourself going out to witness and to hear him. Feel your expectation, your desire for Christian liberty and long for it. Consider your own circumstances and hear John speak to you: how you can move a step closer to living the liberty of the brothers and sisters of Messiah Jesus. Resolve how you can practice that to sharpen your expectation of Messiah Jesus and more joyfully anticipate people you encounter after your prayer that day, on his birthday at Christmas and on each day after.
/3/ VATICAN CITY, APRIL 29, 2003 (Source: Zenit.org)
Photo by PDAgrl