Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has removed the judgment against you he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear. On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem: Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.
Brothers and sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Gospel Cycle Cycle C
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 clear 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.
How wonderful are the readings in this time of Advent! These readings speak to us of God’s love for us and God’s compassion and delight in His people. It can be very difficult to remain unmoved by the readings in this time of Advent. Especially on this Third Sunday of Advent we can almost feel the sense of joy and gladness in the texts that are given both for the readings and for the Entrance Antiphon and Communion. The Entrance Antiphon is from the letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.” The Communion Antiphon is a sort of paraphrase of Isaiah: “Say to the anxious: be strong and fear not, our God will come to save us.”
The first thing that we should hear from all of the prophets, and we hear it today in the reading from the Prophet Zephaniah, is that God wants to love us, the God pardons us and that God invites us to be renewed in love. We are renewed because God loves us and we are renewed because we are able to love others.
The second thing that we need to hear is in the second reading, from the Letter to the Philippians: “The Lord is near.” Because of that we can ask God for all that we need. We don’t need to by shy! We can ask that our hearts be changed, we can ask for all that we lack, we can ask for love and for strength, we can ask for chastity and for goodness—and all of this with confidence in this God who loves us so very much. Advent should make us absolutely convinced of God‘s love for us and should invite us to love God in return!
When we come to today’s Gospel, we hear the wonderful commonsense advice of Saint John the Baptist: If you have something extra, give it to the person who does not have enough. If you are doing wrong, then begin to do right.
When we meet anyone who seems to have a true sense of right and wrong, we are impressed. We can even begin to think, as did Saint John the Baptist’s contemporaries—that this person is a special person of God, perhaps even very close to God. But if the person really is from God, then the person will point us to God and not to himself or herself.
This is such an important lesson! Whenever we are impressed with anyone, we must stop for a moment and ask ourselves: Where is this person leading me? If the person is leading me deeper into the mystery of God, that is fine. But if the person is only binding me to himself or herself, then I must move away from that relationship. This is a difficult teaching, but one that is at the heart of any authentic spirituality.
So in this time of Advent, we are invited to look clearly at the teachings of our Lord, Jesus Christ. We are invited to meditate on His word and to consider what His word asks of us. May our hearts come to know that God is the whole meaning of our life and that we are invited to live in that relationship. We can say with the people who wrote the Bible: “Bless the Lord my soul, all my being, bless His holy name!”
May this time of Advent draw us deep into the mysteries of this God who loves us and may we know God’s love and compassion. Let us respond to the Lord by loving one another! Let us rejoice in the Lord always!