Bulletin December 17
Third Sunday of Advent
Last week our readings urged us to cast off sin and to pursue holiness eagerly. God’s grace helps us do this and prepares us for limitless, everlasting glory. Today’s readings confirm the great joy of this endeavor and provide specific advice on how to proceed: by becoming poor. The prophet Isaiah describes the savior who comes “to bring glad tidings to the poor.” We are the poor people in need of glad tidings. Following the example of John the Baptist, we acknowledge that we are poor; we are “not worthy” of the Lord’s attention. Even so, Jesus delights in caring for us. Recognizing how poor we are, and yet how great is God’s love for us, we can only “rejoice always,” as Saint Paul advises. We continue our Advent journey, becoming poor by emptying our hearts of sin and giving thanks to God for helping us grow in holiness.
THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
Children who are poor make toys out of the unlikeliest things: milk cartons, nails, bottle caps, sticks, plastic bags, corn cobs, clothespins. Folks who have plenty consider these things trash—in fact, some poor children literally make their toys out of trash. Their abject need gives them a different perspective, seeing blessing where the rich see only waste.
Material poverty is a scourge on our planet, and we must never make excuses for it. We must work tirelessly for decent conditions for every human person. As we work, we can learn from the special perspective of our brothers and sisters who do not have enough to live. We can see how depending on others for resources can transform a rich person’s trash into a poor child’s treasure.
On this “Rejoice!” Sunday in Advent, we can pray in a particular way for an end to material poverty. Today’s readings assure us that the kind of poverty God desires for us is spiritual poverty, a radical knowledge that all things come from God. Where material poverty can wound the human spirit, spiritual poverty cultivates boundless joy. John the Baptist provides a startling model for us. In all sincerity, he admits that he is not worthy to touch Jesus’ sandals. John says this not to charm the crowds by being coy and self-deprecating. No, John embraces the truth that God is the source of all goodness. We are utterly dependent on God for all good things. We cannot do anything to earn God’s favor; God simply provides for us because we need God. This is massively good news! No one could possibly care for us like God does. At our very best, we merely reflect God’s brightness into the world. God’s brilliant joy is exactly what we are called to. As Saint Paul says, “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it.”