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Gospel for Sunday, December 12: Luke 3: 10-18


10The crowds asked him: “What should we do?”. 11He answered them: “Whoever has two tunics should give some to him who has none, and whoever has food should do the same.” 12Some publicans also came to be baptized and asked him: “Teacher, what should we do?”. 13And he said to them: “Do not demand anything more than what is appointed for you.” 14Some soldiers also questioned him: “And what should we do?”. He replied to them: “Do not mistreat or extort anything from anyone; be satisfied with your wages”. 15Since the people were waiting and everyone was wondering in their hearts about John whether he was not the Christ, 16John answered them all, saying: “I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, whose sandal straps I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17He holds the shovel in his hand to clean his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but he will burn the straw with unquenchable fire”. 18With many other exhortations John evangelized the people.

Luke 3: 10-18

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (

Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

Convert to sharing and non-violence

John asks those he meets to change their behavior, to behave in a way that testifies to true conversion. These pericopes (vv. 10-14) which are exclusive to Luke reveal the evangelist’s interest in the universal dimension of redemption. It is an essay on “professional morality”. Three different categories parade in front of the Baptist:

  1. the Jews who vainly allege their descent from Abraham and who must, instead, produce “fruits worthy of conversion”, that is, which testify to an authentic change of life. And these fruits are the sharing of goods with the poor;
  2. the publicans, i.e. the tax collectors and their subordinates, invited to exercise the rigor of justice by avoiding corruption and harassment;
  3. the soldiers, who are required to overcome every type of violence.

Only Jesus baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and fire

Luke would like to dispel “the possible misunderstandings between the person of the Messiah and that of his precursor, which suggest how modest and humble the figure and appearance of Jesus must have been, if years after his first manifestation and affirmation the Baptist could still be confused with him” (O. Da Spinetoli). The Gospel of John (John 1,8.19-34) will be very explicit in pointing out that John the Baptist is not the Messiah. Making a comparison between Luke and Matthew (both dependent on the Q source) we find that:

  1. Luke omits John the Baptist’s announcement that the kingdom of God is near (Mt 3.2) and reserves this proclamation for Jesus (Lk 10.9.11).
  2. Luke suppresses the description of the Baptist in the role of Elijah (Mt 3.4; Mk 1.6) and the account of the Baptist’s activity, especially the fact that they flocked to him from every region to be baptized (Mt 3.5).
  3. In the statement: “He who is stronger than me comes after me”, Luke removes the danger of Jesus being considered a disciple of the Baptist. Luke considers John the last and greatest of Israel’s prophets, but clearly outside the glorious messianic era that begins with Jesus (Luke 16.16; Acts 13.24).

The figure of the Baptist is completely leaning towards another character and another baptism “in the Holy Spirit and fire”. In relation to Christ, John feels similar to a slave of the lowest level: untying the thong of his sandals was an act that a master could not demand from his Jewish servant, because it was considered too humiliating.

Only Jesus baptizes us, that is, he immerses us in God, in his Holy Spirit who is a devouring fire; the Holy Spirit descends on the first Church in the form of “tongues like fire” (Acts 2:3).

Many times in the Bible fire symbolizes God: “The Lord your God is a devouring fire”. (Deut 4:24). God appears to Moses as a burning bush (Ex 3:1-6). During his revelation at Sinai, “the Lord descended into the fire, and his smoke rose like the smoke of a furnace” (Exodus 19.18; 24.17). During the journey in the desert God follows his people like a pillar of fire (Ex 13,21-22; 14,24).

Jesus is truly a devouring fire: “I have come to bring fire to the earth; and how I wish it were already turned on…! Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but division (diamerismòn)” (Lk 12,49.51).

“The person and work of Jesus do not leave indifferent those who learn about them. It is like a fire that warms, inflames, purifies the men it encounters… Christ’s proposals are therefore incendiary, they do not leave men and things undisturbed, they provoke a revolution (diamerismòs) in those who welcome them” (O. da Spinetoli): “Do therefore fruits worthy of conversion” (Lk 3:8)!

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at


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