Why did the crowds and the soldiers and even the tax collectors ask John the Baptist, “What should we do?” Why did the crowds love John so much? After all, he was harsh and direct.
It’s because they knew. They knew they needed to change. They longed for some spiritual growth, for some connection. They knew they needed to repent, to throw their bad behaviors onto the fire. And they wanted to know what needed to be done for this spiritual growth to occur.
If we are taking Advent seriously, if we are preparing our hearts for the coming of the Messiah, then their question is ours as well.
What should we do? The answer is there for us. No bribes. No false accusations. No collecting more than the amount that we are owed. No grumbling about salaries. And we should stop being selfish and greedy.
Simply put, don’t do bad things. Do good things instead. Everyone already knows that. The crowds, the tax collectors, the soldiers, you and me. We already know that.
We already know what the bad things are. But our liturgy today doesn’t want us to focus on the bad things. Our liturgy today wants us to focus on good things because the liturgy focuses us on joy.
So let’s not focus on what we already know is wrong. Let’s focus on what we know is right. Listen to John again.
Share your extra stuff. Give some food to one who is hungry. Tell the truth and treat people with respect. Be satisfied with what you have and be content with your work.
Even though John was harsh, the crowd loved his zeal, his personality. John inspired them. John turned their attention to brighter days.
So let us focus on the right things we do because we want a relationship with Jesus, we want to know Jesus, to embrace Jesus, to build a relationship with Jesus. We want Jesus to strengthen us and illuminate us and transform us. We want to focus on brighter days.
What should we do? Be more concerned about our spiritual well being and the needs of others. Be more sensitive. Be more generous. Be more gentle. Be more loving. Be more kind.
Yes, we need to stop doing bad things. But we also need to work on doing more good things. Saint Paul says that our kindness should be known to all.
Today we rejoice because the Lord Jesus is near and the peace that he brings surpasses all understanding. The peace that he brings transforms our hearts and minds and joyfully renews us in his love.