3rd Sunday of Advent-Cycle C-2018

FIRST READING Zephaniah 3:14-18a

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.

SECOND READING  Philippians 4:4-7

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 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 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.

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

The joy of Advent!  And, a hidden fee. The joy that come into our hearts as we think of God becoming a baby in order to save us from ourselves and from all that is evil.  The latter part of that wonderful gift, the saving us from all that is evil, requires us to repent.  Have you ever received in the mail or through social media or the internet an offer whereby you have received a $1000 gift card or 50% savings on future purchases at a department store or online business?  Especially at this time of the year.  Well, this gimmick comes with a hidden fee:  consumers have to purchase a certain amount of goods and services before the “free stuff” is honored.  Jesus Christ is not a gimmick. His gift to us of Himself born of the Virgin Mary is real and mysteriously incomprehensible.  But, He asks of us to repent in order to get the full benefit of the gift.

The first reading today is from the Prophet Zephaniah and expresses how God struggled with the Chosen People, our ancestors in the faith, and occasionally won their return to Him.  God’s gift to the Chosen People was not fully received because they were not willing to do their part by being loyal.  Marketers do the same thing with credit cards and airline travel, “Be loyal to us and we will give you rewards.”  This commercial strategy is remotely similar, but we Christians know that the rewards God urgently wants to offer us, at any moment in time, are unimaginably wonderful and rich.

The second reading from the Letter to the Philippians reminds us that God is always near to us, ready to give us the gift of Himself.  God is with us and seeks us out and forgives us… for this we turn to Him, the small fee.  We can hear these words repeated in our hearts:  the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Christians, let’s get excited!

Saint Luke’s Gospel provides an active portrait of John the Baptist preaching the Good News to the people.  Good news!  God’s good news of salvation for us!  John the Baptist responds to the seekers of God curious to know how to “claim” the free gift of God’s love. Yes, you have it offered to you, but to fully possess the joy of the gift, you must repent.  Turn away from thoughts, words, and deeds that contradict God’s love for us and others.  Live honestly, love one another tenderly, and walk humbly with God.

The challenge of Advent every year is this:  Are we ready to go all the way to claim this wonderful, free gift from God?  He will continue to seek us throughout our lives.  No matter how often we turn from Him, He will be there with us with His love.  Therefore, let us rush, and not tarry, to redeem this wonderful offer from God! His Son:  The Redeemer.