Does this reflection resonate with you? Is this the way you like to pray?
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.” Luke 3:14
Be generous. Live simply. Practice mercy. Assume goodwill. When I worked with post-graduate volunteers, these short, meaningful phrases would often surface in conversations. Students would write them on post-it notes in common areas serving as reminders to bring intentionality to our interactions with one another and the people whom we accompanied. Although brief, these phrases served as answers – and challenges – to the larger question, “How am I called to live peace and justice today?”
In today’s Gospel, John is asked the question, “What should we do?” by the crowds, the tax collectors, and the soldiers. John instructs them to be generous with material possessions and share their clothing and food with those who have none. Be generous. To the tax collector, he responds that he should stop the cycle of greed and no longer charge clients more than the prescribed amount. Live simply. Lastly, to the soldier, he prohibits extortion, false accusations, and greed. Practice mercy. Assume goodwill.
Although the life experiences, careers, and day-to-day realities of these individuals are different, the message is the same: look beyond yourself and live in a way so that others can flourish. As the mystic, Mechthild of Magdeburg said, “How should one live? Live welcoming to all.” As we continue our Advent journey on this third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, may we be attentive to how and when we can act for the common good in our distinct realities.
What words or phrases echo in your heart in response to the question, “What should we do?” How might you be called to respond as a person of peace today?