3rd Sunday of Advent: Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“The Gospel: A Proclamation Of Joy.”
It is important for Christians to keep well in mind that the Gospel is not a heavy burden to add to the many we already have to carry in life. It is instead a proclamation of joy and happiness. Its truth comes from the Lord who is among us.
The first reading invites us to persevere because God’s love will always prevail.
In the second reading, Paul is telling us when we feel so often like being tied up by our sins or by the consequences of our mistakes and bad choices: take courage, “the Lord is close at hand!”
The Gospel is showing us three attitudes we must assume if we want to experience the ‘joy’ promised to those who welcome the Christ who comes: share the goods we possess, avoid injustices and stop oppressing people.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
Imagine God singing over you! It’s hard to think of God getting excited about us. Our lives are mostly small and anonymous. Why would God even notice us? Unless our misery becomes too deep and our wails very loud, there is not much in our lives to draw divine attention. Zephaniah was a prophet who exercised his ministry during the reign of King Josiah of Judah (640-609 BC). Since the practices that Zephaniah inveighs against were forbidden by Josiah’s deuteronomic reform in 622, it is probable that his prophecy was delivered before that date. This would place his prophecy shortly before the early years of Jeremiah’s ministry; which was probably influenced by it.
In Chapter 1 of his book, the prophet declares forcefully that “the day of the Lord,” a very dark day indeed, is coming. In this final passage, he proclaims the joy that will follow, the restoration of the people to the happiness God always wants for us. Why this change? The Lord ‘has repealed the sentence’, Jerusalem will not be punished, nor will anything bad happen to it. She has been an unfaithful bride, she has betrayed her God, but he will not throw her out of the house forever. He will ‘renew her by his love’. What about all the punishment God had been threatening? From this text we can see what is the day of the ‘anger of the Lord’: It is not the time when he loses patience, gets annoyed with human wickedness and decides to punish all people, but the day that his love will be able to overcome all evil.
God’s anger is against evil and not against sinners. The prophet Zephaniah who lived at a time when his people were so close to ruin, announces the victory of God’s love over sin and the radical transformation of the social, political and religious situation. This is the reason he invites all the poor in the country to rejoice.
Although the basic theme of the book of Zephaniah is doom, judgement and reproach, it concludes with songs of joy. It’s as if the Lord cannot bring himself to offer his people only threats of punishment. He must also reassure them before the end that some of them, at least, have a better destiny in store for them. Universal wickedness will be overcome by God’s joy in his people.
When we look at our lives, as we watch what goes on around us, we find so many more reasons to be downcast and low-spirited, than to make merry. Wars, injustice, social confusion and jealousies seem to thrive in the Christian community. Zephaniah’s words are today addressed to us, and invite us not to let our arms fall limp, because God’s love will prevail over all.
Responsorial Psalm – Isaiah 12:2-6.
A song from Isaiah takes the place of the Psalm. The opening sections of Isaiah are preoccupied with the wickedness of the nation and God’s displeasure at it. God prefers to bring comfort (Is. 40:1) and wants his people to drink in joy at the well of salvation.
Take courage, ‘the Lord is close at hand!’ That is the message of Advent, God has chosen to become like us and share our food and our fate. God left glory behind and chose the womb. It is an amazing thought. We often think of God as far away, above and beyond our experiences. Through the person of Jesus, the early Christians understood that God was near, had walked their roads, and was returning soon. More than that, through the Spirit present in their assembly, they knew that God was in their midst.
Paul says anxiety has no place in a relationship this tender. Anxiety and our fears should be replaced by offering our needs to God in prayer, with love and gratitude. We are not trying to win the favour of a distant deity. We are in a relationship with the ‘One’ who is near to us as our next breath. So we who are worried about many things can relax. If there is anything that we need, ask the Lord for it with prayer and thanksgiving. And beyond that, we can rejoice. God’s peace stands guard over our hearts and minds, and no human concern can take that peace away.
In today’s Gospel, Luke continues to speak about the activity of John the Baptist as he prepares the people to receive the Messiah. He asks them to straighten up their lives through repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
In order to do this, he proposes to the different types of people who come to him, concrete ways of showing their readiness to break with the past of sin and to enter into the new life he announces. He tells the people: “Anyone who has two tunics must share with the one who has none, and anyone with something to eat must do the same”.
How is the sharing of goods within our communities? We are willing to meet for prayer and songs, but as soon as we are requested to put the goods we possess at the disposal of our fellows then our religious enthusiasm seems to disappear. Jesus will ask even more from his disciples: “To anyone who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic”! (Lk. 6:29) As long as there are inequalities, the Saviour cannot manifest himself. We must first remove all the barriers that separate us from our brothers and sisters because those same barriers separate us from God.
The second group to approach John are the publicans. The Baptist tells them not to take advantage of their positions in order to exploit the poor and the unprotected. Are we sure that we have nothing to do with such a profession? If we can lay our hands on something that one of our brothers or sisters needs desperately, do we try to sell it at a high price and unfair profit? Are we then not also being publicans?
The last group to ask John the Baptist for his counsels are the soldiers. We might have expected John to tell them to abandon military life, but he shows tolerance. The soldiers’ wages at the time were very low. They used their weapons to frighten and exploit people to extort money and to impose on the poor, humiliating and difficult tasks. The Baptist asks them ‘not to mistreat’ anybody and to be content with their pay.
Jesus will tell his disciples: “Offer no resistance to the wicked. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well (Mt. 5:39). The soldiers are the symbol of those who can abuse their power. When we take advantage of our position and oppress those who have nobody to defend them, are we not behaving like intimidating soldiers?
Zephaniah, John the Baptist and Paul all shared one belief: that the Lord was very near. God’s nearness didn’t act as a threat to them, but funded them with a radical source of joy that no one could take away from them, not even the executioner. Their joy in the closeness of God, gave an edge to their preaching exhorting others to make ready; it gave them a vision to see the far side of disaster; it moved them to draw others into that sense of joy. The joy of God’s closeness was a power that carried them through difficult times. Both John the Baptist and Paul faced an opposition determined to destroy them; both had a faith to encourage them beyond the reality of imprisonment and execution.
We all need a power that carries us through difficult times, that prods us on when we face the reality of our weakness and limitations. To believe in the abiding presence of a God, who cares and gives us a deep sense of joy in the midst of our own stops and starts. That presence always challenges our gratuitous love, our generosity and calls on our sense of justice. It keeps us on our toes and enables us to continue living even when the calendar is crowded with ‘blue Mondays’.
Let us this Advent become more loving and charitable, show more fairness and honesty and replace any form of oppression with love. In pointing us to these three demands, the Baptist is showing us the way of achieving true joy. The Baptist in today’s reading is also pointing towards a holy and mysterious God, who is about to enter our lives in a new way, if only we will open up our hearts and let him in.
A Christian celebrates the past, lives in the present and looks to the future with confidence. Advent nurtures hope, one of the three theological virtues implanted at baptism. In darkness and despondency, in sinfulness and shame, in sadness and in woe, hope looks to the future with expectancy.
Maranatha, come, Lord Jesus, come.
What must we do in preparation for the coming of the Lord?
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 3rd Sunday of Advent Year C, we reflect on …
Sun. … The prophet Zephaniah proclaimed that joy will follow the ‘day of the Lord’ and that people will be restored to the happiness God had wanted for us. God’s restoration for humanity has always been an on-going process throughout salvation history. Likewise, the development of our faith and our holiness is an on-going process, as we journey towards the day when we meet the Lord. How often have we experienced “dark days’ in our lives only to find joy and happiness close behind?
Mon. … During this period of Advent, let us reflect on the coming of the day of the “Anger of the Lord”, and that his protective love for all his children will destroy and overcome all evil forever. All people will then live in the joy and happiness that the prophet proclaims.
Tues. … We live in a time when many people are close to ruin, both spiritually and financially. Zephaniah’s words invite us to persevere and not let our arms ‘fall limp’. God’s love will prevail over all. We must have faith and trust in the Lord despite all appearances to the contrary.
Wed. … In the second reading, Paul tells us to rejoice, the Lord is coming soon. This is the message of Advent. Let us not despair over our trials and seemingly insurmountable difficulties and offer up our anxieties, fears and our needs to God in prayer with total confidence. God’s wisdom and his plans for us are beyond our comprehension and understanding. We need to trust that God’s peace will stand guard over our hearts as we await the Coming of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Thur. … John the Baptist’s message for us all this Advent, is that we must become more loving and charitable; to show more fairness and honesty in dealing with others; and to replace any form of oppression with love. In pointing us to these demands, the Baptist is showing us the ‘way’ of achieving true happiness and joy.
Frid. … In our prayers let us ask the Holy Spirit for the grace to fully understand our spiritual deficiencies and needs, that we may remove all the obstacles that our pride, sinfulness and lack of love for our neighbour have built up, so that we may make the Lord’s path straight, to come into our lives and our hearts this Advent season.
Sat. … Let us reflect on the plans that we have made to make the Lord’s path straight. What changes do we plan in our lives? When making new plans for our lives always consider: “What would Jesus want us to do”? Jesus can change our lives forever, if only we would let him.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Almighty God and Father, we pray for the spiritual strength to remove all the obstacles that we have willingly built up during our many years of sinfulness and foolish pride. Give us the wisdom and firmness of mind to take advantage of the sacramental graces You have given us to make the Lord’s path straight. Lord we give You thanks and praise for our Holy Baptism and Your ongoing graces and mercy that we may be led to our inner transformation to be born into ‘new life’ in Your family.
You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.