What does the Lord require?
John the Baptist continues to dominate the gospel this week, with a focus on ethics and justice. Odd though he was, people were eager to listen to him and be baptized by him. They clearly sensed a bold new possibility for their lives – an open door into a more satisfying way to live.
John didn’t water down the message – he didn’t make it very user friendly, truth be told. He could be harsh and blunt! But still the crowds were attracted to him. This fascinates me. Contemporary wisdom tells us that a difficult message will be resisted and not get much of a hearing. John is an exception to that rule.
So what did John demand? A high ethical standard:
- “Whoever has two coats must share….” - generous sharing what we have with people who have less;
- “Collect no more [taxes] that the amount prescribed…” – following the rules without cheating
- “Do not extort money from anyone…” – no stealing or deceitful business practices
This is basic stuff – Ethics 101. John knew that life is better when we don’t soil ourselves with ungenerous or dishonest behaviors…and the crowds seemed to get it, too. If we behave uprightly, we can stand tall in the eyes of God, and in our own eyes.
I wonder if we “get it” today? John rightly portrays the God of Justice and Mercy we have inherited from our Jewish sisters and brothers. Jesus comes to us, following that same God. How will Jesus add to that revelation? That is the mystery of the Incarnation. JBM