December 13, 2015 - 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church
What kind of Messiah does John the Baptist predict? John speaks of a Messiah who comes bringing judgment. "His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear the threshing floor."
Do you know what a winnowing fan is? Do you know what a threshing floor is? This image has to do with separating the grains of wheat from the chaff.
But since we eat so much processed food, we might not even know what grains of wheat and chaff look like, let alone a threshing floor and a winnowing fan. So, the image and meaning are lost.
The threshing floor is a wooden floor where the planks are set slightly apart. A winnowing fan is like a broom. The wheat is placed on the threshing floor and thrashed with the winnowing fan so that the grain falls through the spaces into a bin while the chaff remains on the floor.
In this image, the good is separated from the bad. The good grain produces flour which becomes food to nourish. The bad chaff is thrown on the fire and burned.
Faced with this judgment, the people asked John the Baptist, what should we do? John gives the remedy. Be charitable and merciful towards others.
Don't take more than what is yours. Don't falsely accuse anyone. Be satisfied with your wages.
This question should become ours today. What should we do? If we ask the Lord Jesus, if we ask John the Baptist, if we ask Pope Francis the answer is the same.
As we begin this Jubilee Year of Mercy, our Holy Father has asked us to focus more deeply on mercy by studying and reflecting on God’s loving mercy, on receiving mercy and on giving mercy by being merciful towards others.
Pope Francis has asked us to rediscover and practice the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.
How we behave towards others is a measure of how deeply we have welcomed Jesus Christ into our hearts. Not only are our behaviors important, but we are also invited to think about the spirit in which we act.
It is one thing to practice mercy begrudgingly or out of duty; it is another thing completely to do so happily and joyfully.
The prophet Zephaniah, in the first reading, speaks of this joy. He says that it proclaims God's presence among us. Saint Paul invites us to be filled with this joy, to always to be happy in the Lord.
Advent is the time of watching and waiting with joyful hope. Why joyful? Because we are looking forward to celebrating the coming of the Lord.
We do not have to be worthy to welcome Jesus, but we are called to be willing to let the Lord’s coming change our attitudes and behaviors. We have to be willing to practice mercy, to become merciful like God is merciful.
John the Baptist may announcement the coming judgment. But the coming judgment of God is to show mercy.