What should I do?

’Tis the season of glad tidings and great joy. It is a time of year in which we are reminded to slow down and to take heed of those around us. Yet for too many of us, our lives seem more harried and hectic as we rush around trying to find just the right gift and so on. In this busyness we often lose sight of what this season truly represents. Too often, we fail to notice those around us, our families, our friends and others who are in great need, we get so wrapped up in the frenzy that we do not see what is right in front of us or grasp the full meaning of the season. 

Yet each week during Advent we are reminded in the readings and Gospels that are leading up to Christmas, that it is also a time to prepare and to be prepared, to ready ourselves and to make ready the way for the coming of Our Lord, Jesus. In this weekend’s Gospel from Luke we hear the question “What should we do?” And as John the Baptist begins to answer the question more and more begin to ask, “What about us — what should we do?” Like those in the Gospel, we should be asking ourselves the same question, “What should I do?” 

John the Baptist tells them to share what they have with those in need. He instructs them to share extra clothing, food, or whatever they may have in abundance. This still rings true for us even centuries later, not only can we share our material goods, but we can also share our time and talents as well. Even if we do not have much to give, we are reminded that we can serve others by being fair and just, being honest in our dealings, and to treat everyone we meet with respect and dignity. In others words — to treat others as we would like to be treated. Whenever I hear this Gospel it always reminds me of the song “Whatsoever You Do,” and especially the verse, “Whatsoever you do for the least of My brothers, that you do unto Me.” 

And if the readings are not enough, there is also a plethora of Christmas shows and movies to be found. Each carrying a similar theme, and regardless of what the story line is, there is always the reminder to slow down, to notice others, and to be kind and generous to those around us. Yet the message is not always about the material gifts, but more of being “present” to those whom we love and care about. It is a time of forgiveness, of reconciliation, and of moving beyond past hurts to allow ourselves to be a gift to others. The Gospel acclamation sums it up quite nicely, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor” (Is 61:1). It is this very Spirit that should guide us to bring joy, love and hope to others.

We are all very familiar with the classic, “A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Dickens. It is only after Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the three spirits, that he has a change of heart and mends his ways. He becomes the embodiment of everything Christmas is meant to be. He is kind and generous, he makes time to take care of the less fortunate, and he takes those who cannot fend for themselves under his protective wing. John the Baptist is no different than those three spirits who visited Scrooge that fateful night. He too is giving us the opportunity to change our ways, to fix the wrongs around us, and to see beyond our wants and needs, to recognize that Someone greater is coming, Someone Who will and has made a difference. 

Someone who began His life no differently than the rest of us, Who entered into this world as we all do, and Who faced many of the joys and pains that we too have known and experienced. His humble origins giving way to the greatest gift humankind has ever known, the gift of ultimate love and sacrifice, of reconciling us to the Father, and preparing a place for us in His Heavenly home. 

The true message of Christmas is to “cry out with joy and gladness: for among us is the great and Holy One of Israel” (Is 12:2-6), the One Who came to set us all free. The real true reason for our Christmas celebration, the one true gift — Jesus. Therefore in this season of giving, let us remember to ask ourselves — “What should I do?” How can I make a difference? How can I bring Christ into the lives of those around me? How can I help others recognize His love and mercy?  What gifts do I possess that can change not only my way of thinking, but can also help to change those who have hardened their hearts, who have turned away, and no longer find joy or hope a possibility? Let us become a people who are filled with the Holy Spirit, bringing glad tidings to everyone we encounter. 

Wishing you all a blessed Christmas and a New Year filled with love, joy, and endless possibilities and hope. 

Anchor columnist Rose Mary Saraiva is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Fall River and works for the diocesan Office of Faith Formation. 

Email her at rsaraiva@dfrcs.com

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