A Reflection on the Gospel for the Third Sunday of Advent
The crowds asked John the Baptist, “What then should we do?” He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two tunics 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 Messiah. 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.Luke 3:10-18
John the Forerunner prepared the way of the Lord by preaching fidelity to the laws of the Mosaic covenant. Addressing the crowds, tax collectors, and soldiers, John exhorted them to share their goods with their neighbors and avoid stealing, bearing false witness, and coveting—the practice of the Ten Commandments. In the footsteps of Moses and the prophets, John passed on the essence of the ancient covenant: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord (Leviticus 19:18b).
John’s fiery preaching sparked rumors that he might be the Messiah, but the humble Baptist deferred to his younger cousin Jesus with the proclamation that “one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.”
The Mosaic law shaped the hearts of God’s people in preparation for the Messiah’s baptism “with the holy Spirit and fire.” The earth has received God in her bosom; clay is being divinized by the fiery breath of the Spirit. Are God’s people ready to be threshed and winnowed? To receptive ears, John and Jesus are heralds of “good news.”