Boundaries, Security, and Generosity

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December 13, 2015 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

December 13, 2015
Luke 3:10-18
Fr. George Smiga

“What are we to do?” This is the question that the crowds, tax collectors, and soldiers asked John the Baptist in today’s gospel. The question is not only appropriate to John’s time. It has relevance to our own lives. When we are faced with problems, it is often not clear how we should proceed, what we should do. This is true both in our families and in our country. As the holidays approach we may have problems in our family: a person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, someone who is angry and uses abusive language, someone who bears a grudge against another family member. As we look forward to holiday gatherings, it is very possible that these issues can disrupt our celebration. What are we to do? Our country is engaged in a lively debate over security as a result of the shootings in San Bernardino. We all want our homes and our cities to be secure. Some are saying that we should increase gun regulation. Others suggest a tightening to our immigration policy. What should we do?

The words of John the Baptist in today’s gospel can help us both in our families and in our country. When John answers the people who come to him—asking them to share, be fair, and not accuse others—the common denominator in all his advice is generosity. John is asking his hearers to approach others with an open and giving spirit. John’s advice is useful to us. As we recognize problems in our family over the holidays, we should face them with generosity, with an open and positive spirit, with a willing attitude that allows us to be patient and to promote peace and harmony. Generosity in our family does not mean that anything goes. We must be willing to set boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not. It is right for us to draw a line in opposition to abusive language or actions. But once we set that boundary we should move forward with as much generosity as possible. The choice is not between boundaries and generosity. Both are necessary. And the boundaries we set will be more effective if they are joined to a generous spirit.

Generosity is also important to our country as we explore the threat of terrorism. It is right that we want our country to be safe. But it is important not to forget the generosity that welcomed our parents and our grandparents to this land. It is important not to set aside the American dream that promises livelihood and education to people regardless of their race, culture, or religion. It is not a choice between generosity and security. Both are necessary. As we work to make sure that our country is safe, we should not forget the generosity that is central to our American heritage.

What are we to do? We are to be people of generosity. We must be willing to set boundaries in our families and ensure security in our country. But we must commit ourselves to treat those around us with a generous spirit. If we do that, we will demonstrate that we understand the preaching of John the Baptist, and we will show ourselves to be disciples of Jesus whose birth we prepare to celebrate.

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