In Christianity, we hear often about the "Good News." We might often associate it with Jesus' compassion to the poor, his healings and miracles, and the salvation he won for us. In today's Gospel, we read of John the Baptist. "Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people." Yet as we examine the rest of the reading, we see examples of John's preaching. If you have two cloaks, give one away. Don't cheat others out of their money, extort, or lie. And, of course, the warning that the Messiah is on the move and "his winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." Merry Christmas? Not only do John's listeners enjoy his message, but they seem to think he might be the awaited Messiah! To understand today's Gospel, it's important to understand the Jewish people. For most of their history, God's chosen people had been under someone else's heel. They were slaves in Egypt. Their kingdoms were ravaged first by the Assyrians, then the Babylonians. Now they were under the yoke of the Roman Empire. Familiar with being strangers in a strange land, welcoming the stranger, caring for the vulnerable, and enacting justice was incredibly important to them as a people. While John's words may seem odd or strong to our modern ears, this call to justice was welcome, even if it was directed at the hearer. The truth is, no one is exempt from John's call to repentance. We all have further to go in the Christian life. We can all grow in virtue and love our neighbors more generously. The Church gives us the Advent season to examine our own hearts. Did any of John's warnings resonate with you? That could be a great thing to bring to Jesus this week!