John the Baptist asks us to open hearts to others

Sr. Muñoz

By Sr. Irene Muñoz, CHM

(The following is a reflection for the third Sunday of  Advent.)

Rejoice in the Lord! The Lord is in your midst! 

What should we do? What should we do? How often have we heard that refrain from friends, loved ones and all who are searching for some direction, advice or solution?

In my ministry as a multicultural minister, I am often asked that question by those who have lost a job, those with marital difficulties, those with alarming utility expenses and those who have lost loved ones, so far away, to death. What should we do? Today we see John the Baptist giving some hard and concrete directives to the question of “What should we do?”


I recall many stories of immigrants who have shared their journeys of hardship traveling from Central America to Ottumwa. Because of the economic need in their country, they ventured out. They spoke of meeting many people who were not very kind to them. Some were robbed and many yearned for food and water. What they experienced in so many situations was the very poor who came to their assistance. Often they shared the little food they had in their home. They were surprised that the most vulnerable people were the ones who were most generous with their food and understood them quite well.

What should we do? It seems like year after year we are challenged to prepare ourselves, to listen and watch for our God who is truly is in our midst! As people struggling to follow Jesus, we are called to work for justice and truth, against deceit and injustice. Many of us have what we need, but still want more and become complacent. We are challenged by John to free ourselves in body and spirit of all that is not of God, to change our hearts and see God in our midst. We can ask ourselves whether we are blind to the sacredness of others and whether we open ourselves to the presence and voice of God who comes through them.

When we live with a sense of compassion, people matter to us. John speaks to us of the human dignity we all possess because of God’s solidarity with all people. The Lord is near. If we would remember this how might that affect the way we welcome others? Share with others? Our interactions with others reveal the worst and best of ourselves. What do our actions reveal to others?

John continues with these strong words: “His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” What is the good wheat of our life that needs to be nurtured and protected and what is the chaff that needs to be burned away?

What should I do? In these 11 days before the birth of Christ we can continue to ponder that question. Without witnessing as followers of Jesus, the face of God that seems so blurred today will continue to fade. We have that challenge to bring that face of God, known and recognized, to the world! Rejoice in the Lord! The Lord is near!

(Sr. Irene Muñoz, CHM, is multicultural minister for the Catholic community of the Ottumwa area.)

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