Sunday December 12, 3rd Sunday Advent

Gospel of Luke 3:10-18

‘Someone is coming who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire’

When all the people asked John, ‘What must we do?’ he answered, ‘If anyone has two tunics he must share with the man who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.’ There were tax collectors too who came for baptism, and these said to him, ‘Master, what must we do?’ He said to them, ‘Exact no more than your rate.’ Some soldiers asked him in their turn, ‘What about us? What must we do?’ He said to them, ‘No intimidation! No extortion! Be content with your pay!’

A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning to think that John might be the Christ, so John declared before them all, ‘I baptise you with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’ As well as this, there were many other things he said to exhort the people and to announce the Good News to them.

With the clarity that comes from the simplicity of his desert experience, John has listened deeply to the Spirit and recognised the needs for the signs of the times.

He teaches his listeners how to prepare themselves to receive the life-giving Spirit that Jesus offers them.

Along with many other Christian leaders, Mary Ward follows in this tradition of John the Baptist by going on retreat regularly. A kind of desert experience where she found a quiet place and was able to prepare her heart, mind and body to listen deeply to the Spirit. She would pray with scripture, journal and reflect on what was happening in her heart.

It has been another huge year for all of us and it is good to step into this tradition along with Mary Ward and find some space to prepare our hearts to listen to the Spirit and receive the life-giving consolation Jesus offers us.

In my annual examen prayer for Advent season I consider…

What has been the grace which has been most under threat during the year?

What is the most significant grace I have received? 

What is my image of God as I think about receiving this grace?

I pray on this third Sunday of Advent to become more aware of the approaching festival that is coming this season and to be a beacon of light and hope in our beautiful but troubled world.

‘Gaudéte, rejoice!’ because Jesus is coming.