The daily Scripture readings and Bishop Robert Barron’s Gospel reflections are rituals for me, but some days I am less attentive to the messages than on other days. The Gospel for the third Sunday in Advent (Luke 3:10-18) continues to keep my attention as the fourth Sunday of Advent approaches.
Responding to a question from the crowds about what they should do, John the Baptist tells them, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Four coats and two jackets belonging to me hang in one closet in my home. I did not purchase all of them; some are gifts from relatives. John’s instruction to the crowds caused me to think about parting with some of my coats. Two Advent reflections I read that day reinforced the thought.
“So what does John the Baptist tell us to do?” Bishop Barron asks readers of his Dec. 12 Gospel reflection. John’s instruction to the crowds is “so basic, so elemental — yet so almost thoroughly ignored! In the Church’s social teaching, we find a constant reminder that although private property is a social good, the use of our private property must always have a social orientation,” Bishop Barron says.
He quotes St. Basil the Great, an early Church father who said, “The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry. The cloak in your wardrobe belongs to the naked. The shoes you allow to rot belong to the barefoot. The money in your vaults belongs to the destitute. You do injustice to every man whom you could help but do not.”
Bishop Barron sums up his reflection with the shorthand answer to what we should do as we await the coming of the Messiah this Advent: “Serve justice, render to each his due, and give to those who are in need.”
Doug Girardot, in his Dec. 12 Advent reflection for America Media, says we need to put John the Baptist’s message into action. “For instance, do we possess several winter jackets (or any piece of clothing) when we really need just one or two? Do we pay our employees enough to live a dignified life, even if it cuts into the bottom line?”
Oh my gosh, he’s speaking to me! If I detach myself from material possessions and give them to someone who needs them more, I will remove the “distractions and hindrances that keep us from fully knowing Jesus,” Girardot says.
His advice challenges me. Like the rich young man in Matthew’s Gospel who asked Jesus, “What good must I do to gain eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16-22) I am reluctant to part with some of my possessions.
In fact, my household is full of possessions that belong rightfully to someone in need, with a few exceptions. Some possessions, like a couple of my husband Steve’s shirts and sport coats from the 1980s do not pass muster. Our son Patrick’s dress clothes that he left behind after moving into his own home, do belong to someone in need.
I’ll probably linger over my coveted coats and jackets and then pray that I follow the instructions contained in the Gospel and the Advent reflections — all before Christmas.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at firstname.lastname@example.org)