Fr Thomas’ Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Advent

How Do We Reform?

The Report of the Plenary Council of Australia which assembled in Adelaide recently was discussed in last week’s Catholic Weekly.  Adam Wesselinoff highlighted Francis Sullivan and his team’s frustrations and scepticism, while on the other hand, Greg Craven in his article warned that people with their own agenda are trying to demolish the Church.  Though these critiques hold very diverse views, both articles were asking the same question, “How do we reform?” Israelites asked the same question to John the Baptist (Ref Lk3:10).

Tax collectors, teachers, soldiers, and in fact people from all walks of life asked John “What should we do?”  This quest resembles what the Israelites returning from the Babylonian captivity asked Nehemiah, in fifth century BC.  Their question was how to reform and re-establish the people of God.  According to Nehemiah, the Torah, Sabbath and the Temple were the tools for reformation of the returned Israelites.  Nearly five centuries later when John the Baptist was asked “What should we do for reformation” the answer was not the same.

John demanded change of heart and personal transformation.  He told the people to be generous in their charity.  To the tax collectors, he said, “exact no more than your rate”.  To the soldiers he said, “No intimidation! No extortion! Be content with your pay!”  In short John exhorted people to be generous, honest and just.  Such a conversion is prerequisite to receive Jesus as your personal saviour.  When you have a conversion experience you will see the world around you also transforming.

John’s role was only to prepare the way for Christ.  True reformation can happen only through Jesus Christ.  Therefore, John directed the people to Jesus and said, “He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  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 in a fire that will never go out.”  Before the day of the Lord’s judgement, you need to judge yourself.  This is the time to do so.

The much needed reformation of the Church happens when you and I, the building blocks of the church, start the work of reformation in the personal and individual life. Are we there yet?