Reflection for 3rd Sunday of Advent: 16th December

Do the Next Right Thing

“What should we do?” The question in today’s gospel strikes at the very core of our being. It comes to us in many different ways. Regardless of how it comes about, that question brings us to a crossroads. It is a place of discernment and decision and ultimately a place of metanoia (i.e. change of mind and heart). We must begin looking for a new direction for our life.

Many years ago a dear friend and mentor pointed out to me some hard truths about my life. I remember asking him, “So what should I do now?” He looked at me and simply said, “Go do the next right thing.” That was not an answer that I either understood or wanted. As our discussion continued I realised he was not telling me to go fix my life all at once. He was only asking me to take the first step in a new direction. “What should I do after that,” I asked him. His answer was the same. “Go do the next right thing. And after that go do the next right thing.” He set me on a path of metanoia. These small and simple, though not necessarily easy steps would become life changing behaviour.

That is exactly what John the Baptist tells those who ask him, “What should we do?” It is asked three times – by the crowds, the tax collectors, and the soldiers. He told them to go and do the next right thing. John did not tell any of them to go and be something different. Instead he called them to be who they are but in a different way. He did not tell the tax collectors to go find an honest living. He asked of them honest tax collecting. He did not tell the soldiers to stop being soldiers but to be soldiers who respected others and understood the danger of power. He called the crowds to remember that their life is bound up in their neighbour’s life and there is no room for indifference, complacency, or miserly giving.

Metanoia is not just about us. It is connected to and happens in relationship with God and our neighbour. It always restores, enhances, and gives life. It is not about escaping the circumstances of our life but about engaging those circumstances in a new and different way – God’s way. Metanoia opens us to see ourselves and each other as we really are in God.

Michael Marsh