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Third Sunday of Advent: John the Baptist’s message of joy (Luke 3:10-18; Phil 4:4-7)
By Augustine Agwulonu
Fri, 14 Dec 2018

JOHN’S MESSAGE OF JOY (Luke 3:10-18; Phil 4:4-7)

A “bore is someone who answers questions that are not asked.” And boredom does not promote joy. In fact it erases every sense of joy. 

In this sunday’s Gospel John the Baptist responds to his audience’s questions. And his answers are practical and pragmatic. The people have two questions for John: 
1. “What should we do?” 
2. “Are you the Messiah?”
These are very important moral and spiritual questions. They concern faith and the practical life. The true Christian must believe rightly and then act correctly! This is John’s message. 

John replies and asks the people to do charitable acts,  avoid cheating one another and shun extortion! No brutality and no intimidation from soldiers and the police! This message can never be more actual than now. In many places of the world, Christmas is a time for sales and some other special offers. But the case of our country is different and sad. People exploit the season to hike prices, cheat and offer fake materials for sale. When you ask why they do it, their is: “it is season.” A chain of cheating and extorting one another at the season of Advent and Christmas robs us of our true joy and mocks the good spirit of the seasons. John’s fiery preaching is against this evil. The Baptist announces that the axe is already laid on the root to cut down every tree that does not bear good fruit of benevolence, charity, joy and confession for the forgiveness of sin! 

In his humility, John neither usurps Jesus’s identity nor does he impersonate him who is the Christ! He is contented with his function as herald of Jesus, the Messiah and the One who comes to baptize with fire and the Holy Spirit. John is an example of faith. He believes rightly and acts uprightly. 
With his form of life and the nature of his preaching, John does not appear to be a joyful person. His message is about fire, the axe, uprooting and burning. However, let us remember that John leaps for joy in her mother’s womb at the sound of Mary’s greeting to Elisabeth. So, John is interiorly a joyful person. His joy flows from his humility and the knowledge of salvation, which he enjoys and preaches. The success of his preaching, even his martyrdom, is a message and source of joy. John’s joy is also to direct all feet onto the way of peace and to see all God’s people gain the knowledge of salvation! This is the meaning of Zechariah’s prophetic song at John’s naming ceremony. John is on a mission of joy despite his kill-joy experiences in the hands of God’s enemies and those who hate the Gospel and us. 
In the second reading from the letter to the Philippians, Paul asks the people to rejoice. And what is the object of this joy? It is the knowledge of salvation! Those who experience salvation know joy. This joy is not like the gaiety of drunkenness. It is an interior experience from a life in the Holy Spirit. This is John’s joy. This is the joy that Paul says we should enjoy. 


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