We hear St. Paul today reminding the people of Philippi and each of us, Disciples of the Lord, to, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again, rejoice!”
Why rejoice? What are we rejoicing about? The fact that the source for our redemption is near. The source of course is Jesus. Whose birth we celebrate in 12 days. And that, in fact, is part of the Gospel Message today.
Salvation is more attainable than people realize.
And very much like ourselves, the people ask, “What should we do?” And John the Baptist answer is simple, direct and clear. He did not say, as Jesus later would, “sell everything, give to the poor, and follow Him.” Rather, John says: care for others… give away your second coat… share your food… stop cheating people… be generous… be fair… be honorable… exercise your heart for the good of others.
“What should we do?” We all know the answer. Do the right thing!
There is a story told of a Hebrew scholar, Hillel, who lived 50 years before Christ. Someone once asked him to sum up the Jewish teaching in just a phrase. He replied, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man. This is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary [explanation]. Now go and learn.”
In the end it comes down to choices. We make them every day. The doctor says your cholesterol is a bit high. He suggests you exercise a bit more. Take the stairs more, the elevator less. And when given the choice… what do we choose? The elevator, of course.
And probably more than we care to admit, it is often that way in making more important changes in our lives, the kind that John the Baptist is asking. But John makes it clear it does not have to be that way. Start small… Make the effort… Exercise your heart…. Take the stairs…
Make the choices that will make you ready to welcome Jesus, not just at Christmas… But the choices that make us ready to welcome Jesus every day in family, friends, foes… in the needy and poor… in the people of this moment and every moment of your day, our day.
By the way… John never used the word, but if asked what should we do today, he might say, live the Corporal Works of Mercy? Know what they are? If not just look at the front cover of today’s Bulletin. Easy to read and memorize but living them may need some effort on the part of all of us.
But when we do… when we try and try and try… we not only do the right thing, but we become more and more ready to welcome the Lord into our lives now and in the future.