Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Third Sunday of Advent: What Should We Do?
People took John the Baptist very seriously. They were interested in what he had to say. They responded to his directives. He told them to join him in the fight against sin. They were baptized. He told them to prepare for the Kingdom of God. They asked: What should we do?
John answered them by tellling them to apply his message to their lives. Tax collectors were told to stop cheating people. Soldiers were told to stop extorting money. People with means, those with two cloaks, were told to share their possessions.
What should we do? In the Gospel of Luke 6:36, Jesus says, “Be compassionate as your heavenly Father is compassionate.”
Compassion is defined as having pity and concern for the suffering of others. We need to have compassion on those around us as well as those suffering in our nation and our world. This morning, I want to focus in on the home. The center of the home, the heart of the family, is the Mom. She needs compassion. Husbands need to have compassion for their wives. Those women with children at home, particularly babies and young children, live with the constant pressure of caring for their children. They want everything to be wonderful in the home, but feel that it is mostly on their shoulders. Christmas approaches and they feel overwhelmed with all that needs to be done to create a special time for the family. They spend so much time trying to please others that they often run out of gas.
When a child becomes sick, women suffer from a hurting heart while they care for their child. Many women hold an 8 hour job at work along with their 24 hour job at home. People tell them that they are enjoying the best years of their lives, even though they often think, “When is the fun going to begin?” They often want to scream at their mothers when their mothers say, “Stop complaining and count your blessings.” Sometimes, perhaps many times, their husbands don’t make an effort to understand them. Well, men will never fully understand women, and vica-versa, but, guys, you need to recognize the sources of their wife’s stress and support her even if this means nothing more than a little sign of affectionate and appreciation when she least expects it. Certainly, compassion demands that a husband understands that his wife might not be at her best today, but she is always trying her best. What should we do? Well, if you are a husband, you should pray for your wife, support your wife and care for your wife. Or to be more theological, you should extend the compassion of God to your wife.
Husbands also need compassion. They try to support their family very often with jobs they would rather not be doing. I remember my Dad coming home from work and often saying to my Mom, “You know, I wouldn’t do this if they weren’t paying me.” Many men are not as sensitive as most women, and they often misunderstand their wives or their children. When they realize they have done this, they often feel like a burden in their own homes. Regardless of their braggadocio, many men feel like they can’t do anything right, particularly in the home. What should we do? Well, if you are a wife, you should pray for your husband, and let him know that he is doing his best to be a good husband and father. Or, to be more theological, you should extend God’s compassion to your husband.
You parents are well aware of the pressures placed on your children by school, society, and even members of your extended family. If learning were easy, then children would not have to go to school. Social pressures, learning how to deal with others, diversity, all are essential parts of their education and often are more difficult than the hardest class they take. Children, especially Teens often feel that they are not living up to their parents’ or grandparents’ expectations. When they do something wrong, they fear that they have disappointed others and are disappointed in themselves. What should parents do? Parents need to have compassion for their children. Guide them in a kind and loving way, while remaining firm on the direction they need to go.
Years ago a mother in our parish told me that when she went away to college, with an appointment to one of the military academies, she thought that surviving that first year would be the hardest thing she would ever have to do. Then she got married and had children. Her second child really gave her a run for her money. This child made the academy seem to be a minor battle. The child was extremely intelligent, in all the advanced, gifted classes, but found school too easy for her. She couldn’t see why she had to go to school. Every morning she put up a fight. And I mean a fight. There was a lot of screaming involved–so much so that the Mom had to assure her neighbors that she wasn’t beating her kid every day, just trying to get her into the school bus or, most times since the bus was missed, the car. I’m mentioning this because that second child now has a doctorate. She has a successful career. The Mom now admits that number two was worth every bit of extra effort. The child needed understanding. The child needed compassion. She needed loving parents. But her parents had to be firm in order to prepare her for her role in the Kingdom of God.
When the Lord taught us how to pray, He included the phrase: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. We need to apply this to our family life. All of us have battle stories. All of us have been wronged by others, including those within our own homes. All of us need forgiveness from others. Mostly, though, we need forgiveness from God. But we cannot receive forgiveness unless we are doing our best to give forgiveness.
“What should we do to prepare for the Kingdom of God?” the people asked John the Baptist, and we ask the Lord today. “Have compassion,” the Lord says. Receive His Mercy, and extend this mercy to others.