From today’s gospel for the Third Sunday of Advent:
When all the people asked John [the Baptist], ‘What must we do?’ he answered, ‘If anyone has two tunics he must share with the one who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.’
A great image from New Zealand history is of the 1926 funeral cortege of [Saint] Suzanne Aubert leaving St. Mary of the Angels in Wellington (above). The news reports of the day tell of thousands of people lining the streets to pay their respects to this great woman as the cortege made its way to the Karori cemetery in one of the largest ever funerals in New Zealand.
Suzanne Aubert’s life adventure was at the service of Jesus Christ found in the poorest of the poor in Aotearoa New Zealand. Even in her later years (she died at age 91) she with her sisters would push a pram around the streets of Wellington seeking food donations, and she was well-known for initiating conversation in the street with businessmen who knew the only way to get rid of her was to donate!
In his 2003 history of New Zealand Michael King wrote: “Mother Aubert’s vision and example – her insistence of seeing Christ in every person who needed help, her refusal while doing so to distinguish between Catholic and non_Catholic – were among the most pervasive and enduring forces to emerge from the Catholic Church in New Zealand.”
Over the next few days before Christmas New Zealanders will be at their most generous giving presents and financial support to those in great need. Christmas Day every year sees volunteers serving food and giving gifts donated by those who understand that it is in giving we receive.
We already know this in our own experience: while the temptation when we are struggling emotionally or financially is to close in on ourselves, reaching out to support those in need by giving of our time our gifts and our material resources is a guaranteed way to release ourselves from the weight of heavy introspection.
Note too that while ensuring that the poor are provided for is the fruit of lived relationship with Christ, John the Baptist makes it clear that this generosity is also the starting point for people who show their goodness by asking “What must we do?” John doesn’t begin with an instruction to ‘say your prayers and get to church’, but instead emphasises sharing “with the one who has none.”
Last year at this time I encouraged Food For Faith readers to support the mission of St. Vincent de Paul. This year Bishop Paul Martin has invited parishioners to take the season of Advent as a time of generosity to the poor through his Bishop’s Care Appeal with every dollar given to this Advent appeal going directly to “provide food, housing, counselling, security and support to men, women and children who need our help”.
- Take a moment to consider again this invitation from today’s gospel reading: “When all the people asked John [the Baptist], ‘What must we do?’ he answered, ‘If anyone has two tunics he must share with the one who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.”
- Make a decision about how to give of your time, skill and resources to help those who are in need this Christmas? You might be able to encourage others by sharing this link and invitation with them.
- Bishop Paul Martin is a great supporter of Food For Faith and you can show your appreciation by donating to the Bishop’s Advent Care Appeal. Click the image below ensuring that “Bishop’s Care Appeal” is highlighted in the “Area” tab.