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Gospel reflection

Sunday, December 12, 2021: Third Sunday of Advent

Gospel: Luke 3:10-18

The crowds asked John the Baptist, “What should we do?” He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.” Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clean his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.


Winnowing fan. This image leapt off the page. How could it? I had no idea what a winnowing fan looked like! I did what all contemporarily seekers do. I “Googled” it. What I found surprised me. A winnowing fan does not look one bit like a fan. It resembles a basket more than anything. Several things I read described it as shaped like a baby’s cradle. These are images I can use and understand.

Before this year, this passage had me imagining God at the head of a long line of human persons sorting through us one by one. The wheat (good folks) was directed forward. The chaff (the not-so-good folks) was pushed to a place that no one wanted to go. This never made sense to me. I could not imagine God engaging beautiful human persons in this rigid process.

The winnowing fan; the deep basket; the baby’s cradle. These images began to help me to a deeper clarity about what is going on here. There is no line. God is not choosing some of us while discarding others. The winnowing fan is an image we can use to see ourselves placed gently in a deep cradle. God’s action is to help us each become aware of those parts of ourselves that we must allow to separate out and fly away (our chaff). Things like envy, greed, resentment and anger. God’s action is also to help us identify, develop, use and share our good gifts and qualities (our wheat). Things like love, gratitude and kindness.


Use your mobile device or computer to “Google” the words “winnowing fan.” Read up on the subject. View some images. Take time to review Luke 3:10-18 one more time. Notice anything new?

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Alice Shelton

Alice Shelton

Providence Associate Alice Shelton lives in Indianapolis with her husband John. She is a graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and enjoys her work as director of business services at Marian University.

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  1. Avatar PAULA DAMIANO, SP on December 9, 2021 at 10:45 am

    Thank you; Alice. Your reflections are always so insightful.

  2. Avatar Brad Crites on December 9, 2021 at 8:08 pm

    Alice –
    Love it! This brings many other scriptures into a new light and new sense.
    Thank you!

  3. Avatar Denise on December 12, 2021 at 6:48 am

    Your reflection helped me move away from my habitual either/or approach to almost everything. Thanks.

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