Sharing your cloak
Updated: Mar 15, 2022
Sharing your cloak
The crowds asked John the Baptist, “What should we do?” He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”
Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize 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 with unquenchable fire.” Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.
How often do we read the Gospel figuratively? As we approach the celebration of Christmas, we can be tempted to be sucked in by all of the commercialism. We might be more worried about The Princess Switch than the birth of Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem, over 2000 years ago. What happened in the Gospel is real and we are to believe it as such. Jesus really came down from heaven and was born of the Virgin Mary. The Church calls this Sunday “Gaudete Sunday”. “Gaudete” is the Latin word that means “rejoice!” The first reading calls upon us to rejoice. The Gospel tells us how to do it.
Look into the eyes of a stranger. How often do you find sadness? I am always amazed by how much sadness and disappointment you can find in people’s faces when you look through a crowd in a city. So many people have lost joy. We need a real visit from somebody like Santa Claus to restore their joy. They seem to be carrying around lost dreams and unfulfilled hopes. The weight of their worry is evident as they walk the streets, lonely though lost in a crowd.
A command to rejoice
I am struck how the Gospel commands joy. We don’t normally think about our capacity to tell ourselves to be happy. We wait for external cues that cause joy to bubble up inside of us. However, in the Gospel, it is common for joy to be commanded. Here, it is the first reading that calls upon us to rejoice, but the Gospel gives us the means.
The one who has two coats should share with the one who has none. It is in giving that we receive. I am reminded about how I often had the opportunity to minister to people on the street in El Salvador through the apostolate Cristo de la Calle. It was always a miracle to see the transformations. The people who received a hot dinner from us were joyful, but so were the missionaries who went to visit them. It became an evident living out of the saying: “it is better to give than to receive.”
When the crowds go out to see John the Baptist, they know that they need a change. They are tired of their old lives, looking out only for themselves and worrying only about their own material success. He gives them something real and tangible to feel by a change in their lives. Here, it is something as simple as sharing material possessions.
The Gospel is meant to be lived out. How can you make this Sunday’s Gospel real in your own life? What can you share with others? Be generous and help someone who is less fortunate.