Third Sunday of Advent

Written on: December 14, 2018

This week our reflection comes from Sister Nancy Kaczmarek,GNSH. 

Be joy then, be love and hope for the world in the name of the Lord whom we await. 

—Chas Kestermeier, SJ

What a great Advent Sunday! Gaudete Sunday, Rejoice Sunday. The first and second readings reflect joy as well as the hope that threads through all the Advent readings. 

The first reading (Zephaniah 3:14-18A) begins,

“Shout for joy!… Be glad and exult with all your heart.”

And why? Because “the Lord is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.” Of course, that’s not the human condition. Misfortune is woven into our lives. But Zephaniah is saying that we needn’t fear misfortune. Humanly, yes, but spiritually? No. We’ve got God as our mother, the God who will “rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love; he will sing joyfully because of you.” The misfortune we need not fear is incurring God’s anger. Instead, God rejoices over us and sings joyfully because of us. What does that feel like to you?

 The second reading (Philippians 4: 4-7) also begins with joy:

“Rejoice in the Lord always!”

But notice the growth between the time of Zephaniah and that of Philippians:

  • The Old Testament reading would have us rejoice because we have no further misfortune to fear.
  • The New Testament one has us rejoicing in the Lord.

Both of them encourage us to have no fear, but the fear that Paul refers to is the fear of losing God’s love. We need never worry about that, no matter how near we stray to the edge. 

This love moves us to the next step, reflected in the Gospel (Luke 3: 10-18). It isn’t about Jesus; it’s about John the Baptist. The crowds come to him and say, “What should we do?” Notice that his response is what is close to home for each of the groups. His fellow Jews are exhorted to share their food and clothing. The directive for tax collectors is simple: “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed” (historically, tax collectors for the Romans were notorious for demanding more, so they could keep the extra, and the people had no choice but to pay). Soldiers were also told to do what was in their immediate lives:

  • don’t threaten people with extortion,
  • don’t falsely accuse anyone, and
  • don’t wish you earned more money.

Not terribly remarkable. John simply encourages each one to take the next step. But it was so revolutionary to the people that they wondered excitedly if John were the Christ, the Messiah. 

The next step.

We probably ask ourselves the same question every so often: What does God want me to do next?

I imagine Marguerite D’Youville thinking, “What is the next step?” and looking around her world. She saw Françoise Auzon, the blind woman who needed a home and someone to care for her. And she took the next step.

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