Tuesday, December 8, 2015

3rd Sunday of Advent

“Shout for Joy!”  The opening lines of our first reading express the feelings we should be having during this third Sunday of Advent.  Also known as Gaudete Sunday (Latin for “rejoice”), we celebrate that we have now past the half-way point of our penitent reflection… the “hump day” of Advent, if you will.  What have we to be so joyful about?  Our readings provide the answer…


Zephaniah 3:14-18a
Psalm 12:2-3, 4, 5-6
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke3:10-18

Our first reading comes from the Book of the Prophet Zephaniah.  Though we don’t hear from Zephaniah very often in our Sunday Liturgies, and though the book itself isn’t that long (only 3 chapters), the importance of his message not only can be seen in his predecessors Jeremiah and Baruch, but may even have had a profound effect on the Judean monarchy itself by moving King Josiah to begin his campaign of religious reform.  Our passage this week, though similar to the passages we heard from both Jeremiah and Baruch these past two weeks, seems to come with even greater earnestness and joy.  Though he has seen the fall of Jerusalem, he sees a glorious return for the people of God.  This joy is further echoed in our Psalm as we sing “Cry out with joy and gladness:  form among you is the great and Holy One of Israel” which shows us that the Lord is our savior… an image that works for both our Hebrew and our Christian interpretations of this Psalm.

Our second reading comes from the conclusion of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  Also echoing the joy in our previous readings, Paul exhorts us to “Rejoice in the Lord always!”  That through our kindness, and by offering everything up to God, we will in turn find the peace of God through Christ Jesus.  Another way to look at this passage would be to see it as Paul’s version of “Don’t worry, be happy!”

After all this rejoicing then, our Gospel from Luke takes a more somber, practical tone.  Picking up shortly after where we left off last week with the introduction of John the Baptist, we now see him surrounded by a crowd asking him questions.  They want to know what they must do to avoid God’s wrath, and he provides sound advice to everyone… To share what they have.  To the tax collectors:  don’t collect more than prescribed.  To the soldiers:  don’t extort or bear false witness.  This mixed audience (Jews and non-Jews) start to think that he might be the Christ, but he quickly refutes that idea, stating that “one mightier than I is coming.”

Final Thoughts:
Christmas is coming… we can really start to feel it (especially when the weather gets cooler).  For students and children they can almost taste the joy of the coming winter break from school.  For others, the coming holiday means a satisfying break from work.  Liturgically this joy is represented by the rose colored candle of our Advent Wreath, and the rose colored vestments which may be worn by the priest at Mass.  But though we are joyful, we’re not there yet… not quite ready.  As John the Baptist reminds us, the one who is to come is preparing to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Our salvation is secured by our Baptism, but how have we been living up to our mission of living and preaching the Gospel?  Now is the time to let our joy transform us, like it did for Ebenezer Scrooge in the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol.  In these final weeks of Advent, we need to seek forgiveness and reconciliation… let go of the baggage that holds us down and allow the joy of the season, and of our faith, to shine.

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