Thoughts on the Second Readings – Joe Frankenfield
Third Sunday of Advent
Every high school freshman class has a big kid: the guy who stands a foot above everyone else. In my class it was Tom. He was friendly, gentle, had an amazingly deep voice and a great laugh. He was the strongest guy around – no question. I saw him get physical with someone only twice – unusual in an exclusively male group of highly competitive teens. Once, when two guys were slugging it out, he picked one of them up and simply carried him to the other side of the room. That ended that fight. Another time he walked right into the middle of a fight. He got hit twice before the kids realized what was happening. “You really don’t want to do this,” he said. They immediately agreed, whether out of fear from having hit him, a loss of adrenalin or both.
The memory of Tom came back to me as I thought of Paul encouraging kindness among the Christians of Philippi. He wasn’t giving them an order or rule. He was reminding them of their strength: the power they had as a result of knowing Jesus’ promise to be with them always.
Others might wonder if caring for others and giving their energy and resources to those in need were worth the time and risk. Christians knew. The knowledge of how God overcame tragedy in Jesus’ life and promised to do the same for his disciples provided them the freedom to reach out with assurance.
Paul wanted more than just good public relations from the Philippi Christians. He counseled them to share the gift of faith with those around them. By sharing their own faith-given freedom they would bring freedom to others. The point wasn’t more notches in their convert-belts it was increased joy in everyone’s life.
Christians today are concerned about how to present our world an attractive picture of Jesus. Only one way makes sense. Love and serve people as Jesus loved and served us. Demonstrate the astonishing freedom we have to love. People will respond.