the third sunday of advent
the PRAYER. . .
Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God, and open our ears to the preaching of John, that, rejoicing in your salvation, we may bring forth the fruits of repentance; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
the READING. . .
John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him … “Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
the DEVOTION. . .
I was watching television, the other evening, and a commercial came on that caught my attention. The company and the product aren’t important. What matters is the offer! They call it a “Charity Event.” Donate a minimum of $50 to a charity of your choice and you save hundreds on your next purchase! Unfortunately, it’s a “charity event” without the charity. You see, charity – if it’s charity, at all – doesn’t come with strings! Charity that’s not free or unearned or undeserved just isn’t charity! Here, as in so many other campaigns, love just becomes one more transaction. One more bargain. One more deal. Quid pro quo. This for that. If-you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours.
It’s like the tree in today’s gospel. It doesn’t bear fruit because that’s what trees do. It doesn’t bear fruit because that’s what creation needs. It bears fruit – according to the baptizer – simply to avoid being chopped down and thrown into the fire! It’s just like that “charity” event! It does something for what it gets out of it! Give fifty, save hundreds! But that’s an investment, not a gift. When you love – when you really love – you don’t do business. You simply give! Give because you care about the people, about the things, to which you’re giving! Give because that’s what’s needed. Without any thought of what you receive in return. At least, that’s how god does it!