Dec 16, 2018

Saint Scrooge

The theme of joy is very much echoed throughout the Church in her liturgy this Sunday. The Introit at the beginning of Mass tells us to “Rejoice in the Lord always”. In the Opening Prayer, we asked God that we might “attain the joys of salvation”. The first reading tells us to “shout for joy”, while the Psalm adds its voice that we “Cry out with joy and gladness”.
On our part, Christian joy is spelled out in our eagerness to do something in anticipation of his arrival. We know that we are called to repentance and conversion. But there is that instinct to “do” something to spell it out in our lives. Often, when John the Baptist appears in the Gospels, we can easily be put off by his austere lifestyle, his frightening appearance, his stern voice. We might see him something of a Scrooge of sorts. However, in the Gospel, today, provides a very practical answer to that question, “What ought we to do?” John the Baptist recommends, instead of a massive outpouring of generosity, he advises ongoing, continuous simple charity. He reminds us that this is not the time to get carried away with extravagance and recklessness, which is never practical. Simple but genuine acts of practical charity are always within our reach every day. And at the end of a day when we should look back and count our blessings, likewise look back and count acts of charity especially to strangers and those whose path we cross, or who cross ours. It can be as simple as a courtesy to the driver on the road or to the attendant at the store - a helping hand, giving encouragement, going out of your way when you don't have to. Count your blessings every day, yes. But also count how many times you have blessed someone day. True acts of charity are practical and effective. That’s what we hear in the Gospel message this Sunday. Rather than Scrooge, John the Baptist is more like the ghost of Christmas past, present, and future. He reminds us not to look for special training on how to be more effective in our charity. Often, that’s an excuse to do nothing in the present. He reminds us not wait for a special grace from God to do something extraordinary in the future. We’ve already received that when we were baptized in the past. He reminds us not to wait for the annual end of year giving. For you may not even see the end of today. Charity is the spirituality of Christian good manners in every situation, in the here and now. Don’t be a Scrooge! Be joyful that you can presently make a difference in the here and now - and always through Christ our Lord. Amen

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