"What should we do?" How many are asking that question right now? We're getting all our Christmas preparations done. Maybe our gifts have been purchased and wrapped. Maybe we've bought only some of our gifts, but have more to go. Maybe none of our gifts have been purchased, and we have no idea what we're going to buy. Perhaps we're planning Christmas parties, or planning where to go over Christmas. With all this planning and preparing, we might have the feeling in the back of our minds that something is missing, and we want to ask, "What else should we do?"
We've got all these plans and preparations, yet I think we miss one important point about this season of advent: it should be a time of great joy! In fact, St. Paul tells us "Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! [...] The Lord is near." In fact, the popular name of this very Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, comes from the Entrance Antiphon repeating St. Paul's words, which in Latin begins with "Gaudete" – Rejoice.
This should be a time of great joy and anticipation, almost childlike in our joy. We should have the simple joy that children have this time of year when they see the beautifully decorated trees and houses. Children light up during this season; even the snow which us adults complain about excites the kids.
We should be rejoicing always during this season. As the prophet Zephaniah says, "Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!" This is how we should be approaching this season, with joyful anticipation. Our Lord is coming! It shouldn't be a time of stress and anguish. We need to prepare for Our Lord.
So again the question, "What should we do?" How should we prepare for our Lord? That's why John the Baptist was asked the question, after all. He was asked by the crowds who came to hear him preach. He was asked by the tax collectors who came to be baptized. He was even asked by the soldiers who came to watch for trouble. How does he answer? He answers that we should live in virtue. The crowds are told "Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise." We should be charitable during this season. We should be giving to those who have nothing this Christmas season.
The tax collectors were told stop collecting more than what was prescribed. At this time, they were allowed to collect more than what Rome required of them. As long as the Empire received the proper amount, the collectors were allowed to keep the rest. The tax collectors would make themselves rich by tacking onto the required tax. John the Baptist challenged them to take only what was required, doing their jobs with virtue and honesty.
Like the tax collectors, the soldiers were called to practice their jobs with honesty and virtue when they were told "Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages." Giving bribes to soldiers in order to keep from getting arrested was an all-to-common practice at this time. Soldiers were challenged to remain virtuous and give up these immoral practices.
We are also challenged during this season to live our lives with virtue and honesty. During this season of Advent, we need to take time to reflect on how are we doing living the virtues. Are we charitable? Are we just? Do we judge others, or treat them fairly? This needs to be a time of great joy, but it also needs to be a time of reevaluating our lives as we prepare for the coming of Our Lord. This is why receiving the Sacrament of Confession should be a priority during this season.
As we draw closer to the celebration of Our Lord's birth on Christmas, may we be able to receive with joy the answer to the question "What should we do?"