Zephaniah 3:14-18; Psalm – Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:10-18
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Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai
IT’S YOUR CHOICE TO REJOICE
Today is the third Sunday of Advent; traditionally known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word for “rejoice.” This Sunday is so named because “Rejoice” is the basic theme of today’s readings. Beginning from the entrance antiphon through all the readings joy continues to permeate the liturgy. In the first reading, Prophet Zephaniah makes us to understand that the Lord in our midst is a reason for joy; he will renew us by his love and dance with shout of joy as on a day of festival. In line with this; today’s psalm, taking from Isaiah 12:2-6 calls us to “Sing and shout for joy for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” We have every reason to rejoice for our God is a victorious warrior. He prevails and he wins. To sum this up; the second reading says “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near” (Phil 4:4-5).
Thus, the readings for Gaudete Sunday deal with rejoicing in the Lord – Christian joy – as well as the mission of John the Baptist. We are called to rejoice in the Lord and not in the world. A drunk rejoices in the world; a scammer rejoices in the world; a fornicator rejoices in the world. Such joy does not last and besides it is very elusive. So, rejoice in the Lord. John in the gospel further elucidates the things that give Christians joy.
In the Gospel the multitude that came to be baptized by John the Baptist asked him “What then shall we do?” (Luke 3:10). John answered them, “He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” Beloved, we are asked to share. To share means to be charitable. In charity we help our neighbours bodily and spiritually. Charity is the brain behind the Spiritual and Corporal works of mercy. Acts 2:44 tells us that “all the believers continued together in close fellowship and shared their belongings with one another.” This was the attitude of the early believers; what is our attitude today? There is joy in sharing. This Christmas try and share something.
Again, Tax collectors also came to John to be baptized and said to him “Teacher, what shall we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than is appointed you.” John wants the baptized to be honest. We too should be honest people irrespective of our jobs. Honesty is marked as being free from deceit or untruthfulness, being sincere. Don’t cheat to come and do charity. Such charity will not wipe away your sins. Be honest as a steward and a worker. Do not cheat because of Christmas. Apostle Paul says in Col 3: 9 “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices.” Prov. 14: 5 tells us that “An honest witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies.” In Prov. 21:3 the Writer of the book of Proverb reminds us that “To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” Do not come and offer sacrifice when the kind of life you are living is not sacrificial. Offer the right sacrifice and rejoice.
The Soldiers asked the same question and John answered; “Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” As if John knew that the wages of Soldiers will not be enough till date; he told them to be content with their wages. The basic reason of corruption in the military today is money. Many are not contented with what they earn. And so, they use violence and false accusations to score points or double their income. This is not just happening in the Military only; it affects all the facets of government. Many workers; strive by the use of violence, false accusations and other cheating methods. Beloved, as baptized Christians we must reflect Christ wherever we go. If you do good; you may not be rich or poor but you will be a happy person. Rejoice in the Lord!
Beloved, preach the good news. John by his exhortations preached good news to the people. Our duty as Christians is to preach the good news. Even when others report the bad news or preach a false gospel, we must preach the truth. The Bible says in Isaiah 52:7 “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” Beloved, how dirty are the feet of those who carry bad news, gossips and lies. Where do you belong?
LET US PRAY: O God, who see how your people faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity, enable us, we pray, to attain the joys of so great a salvation and to celebrate them always with solemn worship and glad rejoicing. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Fr Galadima Bitrus, (OSA)
REJOICING IN THE LORD
The 3rd Sunday of Advent is traditionally called Gaudete Sunday, “gaudete” being a Latin imperative meaning “rejoice”. Advent, the time of preparation for Christmas, was conceived as a time of conversion and repentance, a penitential period of 40 days just as Lent is in preparation for Easter.
It was, however, subsequently reduced to a period of four weeks, in the middle of which we have a break from the penitential mood to one of joy, just as during Lent we have a Laetare Sunday, also characterized by joy in the midst of penance and contrition.
These Sundays of joy place in perspective the essence of Christian penance: it is not penance for the sake of it, nor is it penance that steals our joy. It is a joyous penance in preparation to meet the Lord born to us at Christmas and resurrected at Easter, both motives of great rejoicing.
The 1st Reading (Zeph 3:14-18) exhorts Judah, called “daughter of Zion” and Israel to sing aloud and to rejoice. Both are then described together as “daughter of Jerusalem” called upon to exult with all the heart.
Following these calls to joy are outlined the motivations: The Lord has taken away the people’s punishment, he has cast out their enemies; the Lord, now called “the king of Israel” is in the midst of his people” hence, the people have nothing to fear anymore. He too, like the people, the Lord will rejoice and will exult with loud singing as on the day of a festival.
This text presupposes a divided kingdom of Israel into South (Judah/daughter of Zion) and North (Israel) but announces their untiy as “daughter of Jerusalem” which was the capital of the United Kingdom under the United King, David. The time of the division was a time of great suffering and fear for both kingdoms under constant threats from Assyria and Babylonia. The restoration of their unity under God as their king will usher in an era of peace and a time of no more fear. For the Lord as their king promises to be in their midst and to participate in their experience of joy, gladness and loud singing.
Here we learn the lesson that division does none of us any good. We are both weakened and become more vulnerable when we are divided. But when we are united, that is indeed the beginning of our strength, the end of our self-inflicted punishment and the beginning of an era of profound peace, a time of no more fear, a time to rejoice and be glad and together sing aloud, king and people alike.
We also see how the Lord as king dwells in the midst of his people, sharing in their experience. Until the time when our leaders or kings learn to dwell in the midst of their people, peace and prosperity will continue to elude us. The nations that know peace today are those where the led and the leaders dwell side by side. There are no special quarters for their senators, representatives and ministers. They live among the people they represent. But look around those nations where those who claim to represent the people are far removed from the people, there is no commonality of experience. It is a case of two different and unrelated worlds. Such society cannot be stable. It is profoundly divided. It takes shared experiences to build concensus and therefore, unity and peace.
The 2nd Reading (Phil 4:4-7) calls on the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord, always. Like in the 1st Reading, here too the motive for the rejoicing is the Lord’s nearness to the people. Hence, the people are not to worry over anything but to make known through supplication and prayers every request. The result is the peace of God which surpasses all understanding.
To rejoice always clearly is not to be happy always. For surely, we will have moments of trials and sadness. To rejoice, therefore, must be something deeper than emotional euphoria. Hence, Paul describes it as “rejoicing in the Lord” and predicates it on the Lord’s nearness, calling it “the peace of the Lord” which surpasses all understanding.
It is the joy and the peace that comes from knowing that the Lord is with me, the Lord is on my side even in the midst of trial, sickness, failure, distress, oppression, indeed, even in the face of death. Nothing, nobody and no situation can take that kind of peace away because nobody, nothing and no situation can take away the Lord from me. As St. Augustine puts it, “When our security is in ourselves, that is weakness; but when our security is in the Lord, that is strenth indeed.”
The Gospel Reading (Lk 3:10-18) outlines in concrete terms the content of John’s preaching of conversion and repentance, addressing the everyday challenges of greed, corruption and abuse of power.
Those who have, are called upon to change course from the mentality of just amassing more and more for themselves to the logic of sharing prosperity. Those charged with responsibility of gathering for the common good (tax or revenue collectors) are exhorted to change from using that as an opportunity to demand more than they ought to, so they can keep the surplus for themselves. Those who are entrusted the monopoly of violence for the common good (soldiers) are reminded not to abuse such power to rob anyone by violence and false accusation, in their quest to augment their meagre salaries.
Clearly, just like the vices of greed, corruption and the abuse of power, poor wages for soldiers was a problem too in the time of John the Baptist and Jesus, as it is in our time. John makes clear that such cannot be a justification for violently taking from the masses, who may be even more deprived than the soldiers.
The same admonition goes to our soldiers and security men and women, and indeed, all those entrusted with power and the monopoly of violence for the good of the larger society. There is no justification for misusing entrusted power and resources.
The call for everyone to remain true to the mandate of his/her calling and shun abuse makes today’s Gospel to maintain a nexus between Gaudete Sunday and the penitential character of the season of Advent. May the joy of the Lord which surpasses our negative experiences and our limited human understanding be our lot today and always!
Fr. Paul Oredipe
What should we do ? “REJOICE”
Today we begin the third week of our preparation and waiting for the coming of the Lord, 3rd Sunday of Advent.
In the tradition of the Church, this Sunday is known as Gaudete, a Latin word which means “rejoice”.
Our liturgy today highlights the theme of joy. From the opening words of the Entrance Antiphon in the Missal, the Opening Prayer, the First Reading from the prophet Zephaniah,4 the Responsorial Psalm to the Second4 Reading from the letter of Paul to the Philippians, (which is the traditional lesson for the 3rd Sunday of Advent), this theme of joy is continually reinforced and emphasized.
In the Gospel passage, we read that people from different walks of life reacted to John the Baptist preaching by asking “What should we do?” As John continued to cry out for them to prepare the way of the Lord, they were touched and so came to him and asked – “What should we do?”
Saint Luke recorded this question three times in our passage today. Like those people, we too today in the midst of our doubts, problems and anxieties ask the same question in one way or another and more particularly during such seasons as Advent – “What should we do?”
To this question, Saint Paul gave the answer by explaining what kind of people we should be while waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ at Christmas, and in that perspective for His final coming to4 judge the living and the dead. While waiting with faith and hope, we as Christians have to rejoice.
Advent is not a gloomy season despite the traditional use of the same liturgical color as for Lent. Of course, Advent has a penitential aspect. Rather Advent is marked by a crescendo of joy. As the coming of the Lord draws nearer and nearer, so we became more excited. The rhythm of Advent is well captured by the Advent wreath which starts with one lighted candle and ends with four.
In the Second Reading, St Paul reminded the first Christians at Philippi of the grounds they had for rejoicing. “Rejoice in the Lord always”, he said, “Again I will say, rejoice”. And straightaway he gave the reason for doing so, and one surpassing reason, above all “The Lord is at hand”.
In the midst of that difficult environment in which they were living, always harsh and often violently aggresssive, the Apostle suggests to them the best remedy “Rejoice”. This is more admirable when we consider that when he wrote this letter St Paul himself was shut up in prison. On another occasion, in extraordinary difficult circumstances, the same Apostle wrote (now to the Church in Corinh) “I am filled with consolation. With all our afflictions, I am overjoyed” (2 Cor 7.4)
One of the great contributions of Christianity is that it has brought joy to the world. We are very much familiar with a Christmas hymn – “Joy to the world”. In a few days, it will be Christmas, a great feast for us Christians, but also for the whole human race, which, without knowing it, is looking for Christ. Christmas is coming and we are asked to be joyful. This is something essential and indispensable to our Christian life.
Our joy however is not just any sort. It is a joy which is found in love and service. It is the joy of Christ which brings justice and peace. This joy is not given by the world, but by Christ himself. Our joy cannot and should not depend exclusively on changeable circumstances, like good news either from a friend or the media, good health, peace and quiet, enough money and having all the material possessions we would like.
All these things are good in themselves if they do not separate us from God, but they are not able to provide us with real and lasting joy. Even in the midst of difficulties, failures, contradictions and trials, when we see the threat of injustice or suffer its cruelty, our Christian joy will prove to be a source of strength. It will also serve to attract other people to the Faith.
In those circumstances, such joy is not a deceptive illusion or an irresponsible means of escapism. If our joy is authentic, the circumstances that surround us are never immutable or conclusive, because our joy is founded on faithfulness to God in carrying out our duty and in embracing the cross. The beatitudes are for us guidelines and ideals which we should4 pursue constantly. In so doing our Lord has promised us joy “Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16.22). Unless we separate ourselves from its source, nothing and nobody can take away this joyful peace. If we truly seek the Lord in our life, nothing can take away our peace and joy.
As Christians, we need to have this joy which Christ gives and preserves in us. In addition, it is our task to share and spread this joy. As the Latin adage says “Nemo dat quod non habet” – No one can give what he does not have.
The response of John the Baptist to the question of the people in the Gospel passage of today gives us a glimpse of the forms that such sharing and spreading of our joy can take. Joy is the fruit of love. The greater our love, the greater will be our joy. Without the joy that comes from self giving, all commandments become difficult and almost impossible to fulfil.
A Christian who does not radiate joy because of his love for God needs to take a closer look at his spiritual life. The apostolate to which you and I are called to, more urgently in this season of Advent, is that of4 transmitting to others the joy and peace of Christ especially in our world of today. We do great good around us with our joy, for this brings others to God.
Joy is usually the best example of love for those around us. Let us remember the first Christians. Their life was attractive because of the peace and joy with which they did the commonplace things of ordinary life. Ours today should not be different but even improve on this. One particularly important place in which we need to sow and spread great joy is the family. Our homes should be bright and cheerful because Christ is the head. We should bring our joy to the place where we work, to our business associates, study mates, to people we met even on the street and into all our social relations. The more important our duties, the more important is it that our attitude should be one of Christian joy.
The world is cold, apprehensive and anxious. It is in dire need above all, of the peace and joy the Lord has given us. When this joy spills over into other men and women, it gives birth to hope, to optimism, to impulses to be generous in our daily toil, and spread its welcome contagion to the whole of4 society.
Our Festival of Lessons and Music and the Potluck Dinner today is an expression of such great joy in us as Christians. But then, shall this be the end? Is this alone sufficient for a community as ours?
Dear brothers and sisters, “Today is sacred to our Lord. Do not be sad. The Joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
Let us open ourselves to greater possibilities and accept the challenge that confronts us today in our individual and common life.
May our celebration today renew and strengthen this joy in each of us through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Fr. Stephen Udechukwu
Have no anxiety about anything
One of the most popular and effective weapon of the devil against us is fear and anxiety. Anxiety and worry can control our every move and decision. Of course the future is what everybody longs to see. Many persons as the year is coming to an end have already projected for the future which is next year. It is this projection that makes us worry and anxious about the future. We want to have a better day ahead; we want to be rich etc.
The world today is filled with wars, conflicts, persecutions, violence, terrorism, unemployment and so on and because of all these and many others we fear for our children, we fear for our families, we fear for our financial future, we fear for our safety, we fear for our lives. Anxiety therefore fills all the corners of the world. And because of anxiety many have been weighed down because proverbs 12:25 says that an anxious heart weighs a man down… and Jesus asked a question for all of us in Mathew 6:27 and Luke 12:25 when he said “ And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life” . In fact anxiety and worry are tools that the Devil has used throughout history and in the Scriptures to hinder God’s people from moving. A good example is seen in the life of Moses. When God appeared physically to Moses in the burning bush, in Exodus 3:10, He asked Moses to go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt. Ordinarily this would have been enough for Moses to know that God is with him but anxiety and worry for the future made him ask in V. 11 “who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt” Moses was worried that he was not going to be able to accomplish this task because he was a “nobody”.
Though he was great before the sight of God but fear and anxiety belittled him before his own eyes. But God in order to calm his anxiety in Exodus 3:14-21, tells Moses His game-plan about how he will come out victorious. But still Moses was doubtful and anxious about it all and said in Exodus 4:1 “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to your voice”. God therefore gave him signs in other for him to believe and stop being anxious but know that He is almighty. And so in Exodus 4:3-4 God made Moses’ staff to turn into a serpent and then turn back into a staff again and in Exodus 4:6-7 God made Moses’ hand leprous and then restores his hand to normal. Still after these two signs Moses because of anxiety still said to God in Exodus 4:10 “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then God reassure him that all will go well because God will teach him what to speak. After this, Moses then gave his most anxious reply to God in Exodus 4:13 “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” Moses was focused on himself, instead of focusing on God. That is why he was so anxious and worried.
Our first and second readings today invites us to rejoice rather than worry and be anxious about material things of this world. Our first reading is a total message of hope and joy. Zephaniah was a prophet who preached to the people of Juda during the reign of King Josiah during the second half of the seventh century. This period was a period of religious degradation; when Assyrian gods were being worshiped; when the people almost forgot the monotheism of Moses even in the great city of Jerusalem. But in the midst of all these, Zephaniah brought a message of hope and joy to the people of Israel who would remain faithful hence he tells them that despite the sad things that is happening to them, God is still in their midst and will save them.
St. Paul too in our second reading writing from a prison where he was in chains invites and urged his new European converts to shout for joy and to rejoice always. Hence he says in our first reading “rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice…” why should they rejoice even in their troubles and sorrows. St. Paul says it is because the Lord is at hand.
Dearly beloved in Christ, there must be troubles and trials in our lives as Christians and that is why Christ told us in Mathew 16:24 that “if anyone wants to be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me”. This is because the crosses we carry, the trials we face and troubles we go through are necessary aids and assistance on our journey towards heaven. And if we carry them willingly with joy and happiness they become ladder for us. Many of us are troubled and anxious about the Christmas, about our children, about our families, about our works but St. Paul gives us reason why we should rejoice even in the midst of all our anxieties and troubles. He says “the Lord is at hand and we should make known to him our troubles because he is a God who answers prayer”. He fills our hearts with joy through the silence of Prayer. As Christians we must allow the joy of Christ to radiate not only in our lives but also in those around us. And one of the ways we can achieve this is what our gospel reading presents to us. Our gospel reading tells us that it in sharing that our joy will be full; in sharing that we find the true joy of Christmas. Let us therefore be happy, rejoice even in the little we have and share with each other so that the Lord who is near may bring our troubles and worry to a halt when he comes. May Jesus the God of all things, calm fears and bring our sorrows to a halt. Amen.
HAPPY SUNDAY AND GOD BLESS YOU.