In a retreat that we attended, the retreat master gave us two hours to reflect on the question: “If you had twenty-four hours to live, what shall you do?” After two hours, we shared our reflections and it all boiled down to one thing: Despite differences in the stories and experiences of all the people, we all searched for what mattered and was most important in life.
In discussing what matters in life, the Gospel talks about people who were preparing for the coming of Christ. Hence, the question, “What shall we do?” Further, the Gospel reminds us of what really matters in life.
- To the crowd who asked John the Baptist, “What shall we do?”, he reminds them of the importance of giving and sharing. In the Holy Land, there are two popular bodies of water: the Dead Sea and the River Jordan. In the Dead Sea, water goes in and it does not go out. Because of this, the salinity becomes so high that no life exists at all. The River Jordan, water goes in and it goes out. Because of this, it is full of life: marine and plant. Giving is life. Giving is the highest form of living.
- To the Tax Collector who asked John the Baptist, “What shall we do?” he reminds them not to take advantage of people. This is one of the most painful human experiences. Someone who you trust, someone who is an authority, someone who appears to be helpful takes advantage of others. Why do people forget that what goes around, comes around? We reap what we sow. We harvest what we plant.
- To the Soldiers who asked John the Baptist “What shall we do?” he said do not be greedy, be contented. One of the sad realities nowadays is that we have lost the sense of gratitude. Now it is all about entitlement. When one is grateful, whether in plenty or simplicity, the person is contented. When the person is contented, he or she knows that they have enough.
This coming Sunday will be the third of Advent, is also known as Gaudete Sunday – Sunday of Joy. When the people of Israel were undergoing great difficulty, the prophet reminds them to rejoice because God is coming. When St. Paul was undergoing so many trials, he still rejoiced. The Gospel gives us three ways to rejoice despite difficult and uncertain times: Giving, Contentment and Gratitude, and not taking advantage of others.