Friends, like those in the time of John the Baptist, we ask: “What should we do?” How should we live our lives?
This question, of course, tells us something else about repentance: that it has to do with action more than simply changing our minds. The spiritual life is, finally, a set of behaviors.
So what does John the Baptist tell us to do? His first recommendation is this: “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none.” This is so basic, so elemental—yet so almost thoroughly ignored! In the Church’s social teaching, we find a constant reminder that although private property is a social good, the use of our private property must always have a social orientation.
An early Church Father, St. Basil the Great, expressed the idea in tones that echo John the Baptist: “The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry. The cloak in your wardrobe belongs to the naked. The shoes you allow to rot belong to the barefoot. The money in your vaults belongs to the destitute. You do injustice to every man whom you could help but do not.”
So what should we do this Advent, we who seek repentance, we who await the coming of the Messiah? Serve justice, render to each his due, and give to those who are in need.
REFLECT: How do you use your private property for the common good?