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Third Sunday – Year C – Advent
Readings: Zep 3:14-18a; Phi 4:4-7; Lk 3:10-18.
Reading 1 (Zep 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.
Reading 2 (Phi 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 (Lk 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.
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh M. Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: Rejoice because our salvation is near.
People are sad, worry and hopeless because they are threatened by many fears such as: failure, prison, slavery, sins, separation, death, especially God’s judgment and punishment. In opposition, people are joyful when all these fears are lifted up: as prisoners or slaves were set free, as students were graduated after passing all examinations, as lovers were lived with their beloved.
The third Sunday of Advent is called “laetare,” meaning the Sunday of joy and hope because the Messiah is coming. He comes to take away all sufferings, sins and despair by filling up with joy, love and salvation.
Today readings express the wonderful joy when people have God in their life because when they have Him, they have everything. In the first reading, the prophet Zephaniah called the Israelites to be joyful because their time of exile is going to be ended. God shall take back His punishment and push away their enemies. In the second reading, St. Paul invited the Philippians to be joyful and to always rejoice in God, since when people have God in their life, they have no need of anything. In the Gospel, John the Baptist called people to rejoice because the Messiah is coming. He shall purify their sins and bring God’s salvation to them.
1/ Reading I: Be glad and exult with all your heart, because the Lord has removed the judgment against you.
1.1/ The Israelites should rejoice: To understand Zephaniah’s passage, we need to understand the historical background of the Israelites at this time. Their whole nation was conquerred by their enemies; the temple and their holy city Jerusalem were completely destroyed; their people were living in exiles: the Israelites in Assyria and the Judahites in Babylon. Living in such situation, the Israelites lost all their faith and hope. The most painful feeling is that they thought God forsook and handed them in the enemies’ hands.
(1) The calling to rejoice: But God’s love overcomes the Israelites’ betrayal and infidelity; this is the reason why the prophet Zephaniah was sent to announce the good new for Israel: “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!” Zion, Israel and Jerusalem represent for all the Israelites. Since this is so great and joyful new which they are waiting for, they can’t keep within themselves, but to shout for joy.
(2) The reason to rejoice: The prophet Zephaniah clearly gave the reason of their joy: “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.” The reason of the Israelites’ exile is their disobedience to God and chasing after foreign gods. To give them an opportunity to return, God must let their enemies to wipe out their country. Now, the time of purification is going to end and they don’t have to worry about misfortunes anymore because the king of Israel is in their midst. Like oracles of other prophets, the fulfillment must be considered in two levels: First, God liberates the Israelites from the exile and brings them back to re-establish their country. Secondly, God gives them the Messiah to dwell in their midst in order to teach and to bring salvation for them. They must rejoice because with God’s presence, their enemies shall have no power upon them.
1.2/ God will also rejoice when His people are joyful: Sufferings affect not only human beings but also God because of His love and care for them. Therefore, when people are liberated from shameful and painful exile, He also rejoice with their joy and gladness. The prophet described God’s joy when He welcomes the Israelites’ coming back, “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.”
2/ Reading II: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: Rejoice!”
2.1/ Let always rejoice: St. Paul really felt the joy of a person who has God, because he has everything. This is the reason why he encouraged the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: Rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near.”
Joy is the sign of the person who has God; therefore, the believer must always rejoice because God is always with him. People are only worry and afraid when they live far away from God and chase after worldly vainglory; and then, they must receive all painful sufferings from them. St. Paul also teaches us an important lesson: true joy only comes from our relationship with God; we can’t find it from anyone or the world. He also advised the Philippians to be kind with all people; this means to live justly and to have compassion for people. Like God, He treats people not only with justice but also with mercy, even though people betrayed Him. Only with mercy, people may have a chance to renew their life.
2.2/ Let always pray: People are worry and fearful when they face difficulty and challenge in their life. St. Paul advised the faithful to get rid of them by a life of prayer, “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.” Several things people must be attentive to when they pray to God:
(1) Pray with God about anything: There is nothing which is greater than God’s mighty power; and there is also nothing which is too small for His attentive caring. Let put in His hands all of our past sins, our present problems, and our worries for future.
(2) Pray with a complete trust: When we pray to God, we must believe that we are praying to a wise God who understands all things; a powerful God who can do all things; a gentle Father who is ready to bestow all graces for His children.
(3) Prayer helps us to find true peace of mind: An author said, “peace is the effect of a trustful prayer.” Once people completely believe in God’s love and power, they entrust everything in His hands; they are no longer worry or fearful; therefore, they have the true peace of mind. St. Paul also ascertained this belief with his faithful, “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” In other place, he wrote: “If God gave us His Only Beloved Son, what else He can give and doesn’t give to people?”
3/ Gospel: What people need to prepare to welcome the Messiah’s coming.
3.1/ They must change their life: Not everyone can recognize and welcome Christ as the Messiah, sent by God to them. The history showed many people, not only didn’t recognize him but also condemned or killed him. When the Jews came to John and asked him about what they must do to prepare the way for the Messiah, he told them to be humble and changed their life according to the truth. John Baptist gave them concrete and practical advises depending on their situation. He didn’t demand them to change their career but the attitude when doing their job.
(1) To the crowd: They asked him, “What then 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.” John taught people to practice charity by sharing with others what they have because happiness isn’t depended on what they possess but on love they have for people. Christ also taught, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).
(2) To the tax-collectors: They came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” John answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” The temptation of the tax-collectors is to collect more than what people should pay and to keep that extra money. John advised them to respect justice by being content with their salary and to return to others what they illegally collected.
(3) To the soldiers: They also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” John told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.” The temptation of the soldiers is to surpress people because they have weapons on their hands. John advised them to truthfully live according to their conscience, don’t steal from the innocent; don’t falsely accuse anyone and be content with their wages.
3.2/ The difference between the Messiah and John the Baptist: Observing John Baptist’s simple life and his way of preaching, many stipulated in their hearts that “whether John might be the Messiah.” He was very truthful and wiped out all people’s suspicion by mentioning two main differences between the Messiah and him:
(1) The difference in power: He said about the Messiah: “One mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.” He is only the herald for the Messiah, to prepare for people to meet the Messiah.
The Messiah has authority to judge and to compensate people according to their works:
“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.” John Baptist has no authority to judge and to punish or to reward people.
(2) The difference between the two baptisms: John made a difference between his baptism and Christ’s baptism: “I am baptizing you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
John’s baptism is according to Jewish tradition for those who want to convert to Judaism. His baptism can’t forgive sins. Christ’s baptism is the baptism in Holy Spirit and fire. In order to receive salvation, people need not only be purified from their sins but also be sanctified by grace. These things can only be accomplished by Christ’s baptism.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– When we live far away from God, we live in anxiety and fear. In order to have true joy and happiness, we must return to God and live in His presence.
– Many people think that in order to be happy, they must have freedom to do what they want; but reality proves the opposite: to have true joy and peace, people must live according to God’s word and commandments.
– The perfect joy is achieved when we completely entrust our life to God. He shall teach, care for, protect and grant us the true peace of mind.
– To be able to receive God, we need to purify our mind by confessing our sins and by treating others with justice and charity.