This little periscope is especially inspiring because the most unlikely of people are asking the searching questions about what we must do to attain salvation. The crowd which is asking of John the Baptist these questions are unusual because it is made up of Soldiers and Tax Collectors. The Soldiers are despised because they are not army, but sort of Pinkerton Detectives paid to protect the Tax Collectors who are extorting monies from the Jews. They are mercenaries hired by the Roman government to oversee their fellow Jews. The Tax Collectors are known for extorting and victimizing their fellow Jews. Hence despised by their fellow Jews.
The crowd is asking what must they do to be saved? John replies “You don’t have to change anything. John goes on to tell them that all you have to do is to carry out your daily responsibilities with concern for others, honesty and integrity. Share your surplus with those who lack necessities. In other words share with the needy and do not exploit the vulnerable.
The crowd askes John the Baptist if he is the Messiah who is to come? John responds “No I am not worthy to removing the sandals from the Strong One who is to come.” The time is near so be prepared. The hearts of those who hear and respond to John’s message are filled with joy and gratitude in response to God’s goodness.
As Christmas draws near for us and as our hearts have a sense of the exuberant and “Dancing God” who is the Strong One, Our Savior, Liberator and Hero coming soon. This period “Advent” is a joyful time. Today’s Sunday is been called “Gaudete Sunday”.
This special day fills us with joy not because Christmas is near, but because God is already in our midst. God’s greatest gift is His Son wrapped in human flesh. Rejoice.
Fr. Ken O’Malley, C.P., is the local superior at Holy Name Passionist Community in Houston, Texas.