The Gospel reading for the third Sunday of Advent this year reveals where she likely got this idea. John the Baptist says, more or less, the same thing when asked what should be done to prepare for the coming Messiah: "Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise."
We're used to hearing some of what we should do to "prepare the way of the Lord." We're told to prepare our hearts, our minds, and our souls. I remember last Advent, local parishes came together in an agreement to hear confessions one extra day a week in order to offer more people the chance to come back into the Church before Christmas. We are encouraged to pray. We're offered daily devotionals. And if you've never been to daily Mass, I encourage you to go during Advent -- it is an enormously peaceful time wherein one can nearly taste the anticipation of Israel as she awaits the Savior.
These are all very good and just and, as far as preparing our hearts for the Lord, necessary. But as we enter the Year of Mercy, we would do well to recall the works of mercy, which consist both of spiritual and corporal works. In preparing our hearts for Advent, we ought not neglect to prepare our homes, our families, our lives, and our communities
John the Baptist, echoed emphatically by Dorothy Day, teaches us that we should be doing far more than preparing on a solely spiritual level; we should be preparing the way of the Lord on a very practical level in the physical reality we live in.
This particular reading is challenging to me, because I wonder if I realize the implications. We are not called to be thoughtful with our belongings -- we are called to be generous with them. This is especially difficult for me as someone who is lucky if I manage to get by each month, let alone have a little extra. But John doesn't only refer to money. He refers to material possessions and to food. Do I do all I can with my own resources to see that those in my community who lack clothes and food don't go without for my sake? Following the sentiment of Dorothy Day, what have I stolen from the poor?
This is something I'll be taking to the more dusty and darkened reaches of my prayer closet, the oft-unused corner where I actually ask God what he wants me to do with the many gifts I've been given. I wholly expect this to become painful, in light of Mother Teresa's pattern of life: that love gives until it hurts and then gives more. I simply need to remember how much more it might hurt to be living outside this winter with no coat and no food.
Please join me in praying about this if you're able. And if you're not, please pray for me to discern and do God's will in my life right now.