Scripture for the Third Sunday of Advent: Zephaniah 3:14–20; Canticle: Isaiah 12:2–6; Philippians 4:4–7; Luke 3:7–18
Reminiscing is a natural thing to do. We do it when we’re young – when, as young adults, we become aware that we’ve left our childhood behind. We do it when we get older – grieving the passing of youth. To look wistfully at our past can be sad, as we regret what has been lost, or it can be joyful, as we celebrate what we recall.
To remember is to apply one of three gifts given to humanity: memory, awareness and anticipation. We need them in balance. We can’t live exclusively in the past – no one drives by looking only in the rear view mirror – but the past can inform and illuminate our awareness of the present. Both past and present can direct our anticipation towards the future. Remembering that our present and future may well be building something that will one day be someone else’s past, Advent invites us to consider how that might be. Will we prepare to encounter Christ in all those whom we meet, even those we don not like? Will we ask ourselves whether the way we treat others is the way that we would treat Christ in their place?
John the Baptist challenged the people of his faith for living just a little too much in their own reminiscent past, as children of Abraham, dragging them into their own present. When people came to John the Baptist, apart from calling some of them a “brood of vipers,” he gave quite specific, practical advice: do whatever you do with more decency and less exploitation.
When we do things that focus too much on self, at a cost to others, near or far, we become separated not only from our neighbour, but from the potential of our truest and best self – and separated from God. Advent as a season of reflection invites us to contemplate and give thanks for the joy in human life, and for God’s willingness to come to us as we are, in hope of fulfilment of our potential; to carry forward the things of value from our past; to try to avoid former errors; and to embrace today in a way that leaves something of value for tomorrow.