The third Sunday of Advent is Rejoice Sunday, which is what Gaudete, its official name means in English. Advent is half over from a liturgical standpoint, though we can quibble on the number of days of Advent that are left.
Today's Gospel reading was about the Baptism of John from Luke 3:10-18 and those who came to him:
Our priest Father John Pirt, preached a good homily about the Gospel today. He spoke of the 3 different types of people that came to John, the soldiers, the tax collectors, and the main stream of Jews. Each group, John met them where they were at. The soldiers, who were not Jews, but Roman occupiers, were able by their power to take from the people, and John told them to not to extort, nor falsely accuse and to be satisfied with their wages. To the tax collectors, who were Jews, but despised by the other Jews because of their jobs, he told to collect only what was proscribed, and not to cheat the people. To the main stream of people, his advice was to share what they had with each other.
The crowds asked John the Baptist,
“What should we do?”
He said to them in reply,
“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them,
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.”
Now the people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people.
It is a good reminder to us that when we encounter someone who's faith is different than ours, it is our duty, like John, to meet them where they are at. John did not tell the Roman soldiers to immediately go and get circumsized, as was the Jewish custom. He accepted them where they were, and invited them to take the first step towards faith.
One of the songs we sung today was " Yahweh, I know you are near." Here is a version of it from You Tube.
As we prepare for Christmas, we remember that John the Baptist prepared the way for our Saviour in his ministry, so that others could give their hearts and their hopes to Jesus. We too are called to prepare the way for Messiah, to help our brothers and sisters find room for him in their hearts and homes.