Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rejoice In The Lord Always! Again I Say Rejoice!

Reading 1                 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.


Responsorial           Isaiah 12

R. Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.

R. Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;
among the nations make known his deeds,
proclaim how exalted is his name.

R. Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,
for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel!

R. Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.


Reading 2              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.

+++ +++ +++ +++

The Advent season is a time of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas, but at the same time, it is a preparation for the second coming, when He comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead. It is a season of repentance and renewal. But, in Advent as in Lent, the Church cannot help but “jump the gun” so to speak, by anticipating the coming mood of celebration. So, this Sunday is often referred to as “Gaudete Sunday”, from the first word of the Entrance Antiphon in Latin, Gaudete. “Shout for joy, O Daughter Zion! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O Jerusalem!” in the invitation in the First Reading, from the Prophet Zephaniah. “Cry out with joy and gladness” is the response to the Psalm. “Rejoice, because the Lord is near”, Paul writes to the people of Philippi.

Today’s Gospel is more low-key. John is still at center stage predicting the arrival of the Messiah. In response to his preaching, various sorts of people – tax collectors, soldiers, others in the crow, want to know what they must do to get ready to greet Him when he comes. John tells each of them in turn to let go of the natural inclinations of their trade or lifestyle. He urges them to be freed from their fullness of self to be ready to receive the fullness of life that will last forever. The Baptizer uses an image familiar to country folks to describe the mission of the One who is to come. He will have a large winnowing fan in his hand, and will separate the precious grains of wheat from the worthless chaff. The grains of wheat are those who will receive life through the Messiah and in turn share that life with others through their good deeds. The chaff are those who choose other ways of finding meaning for their lives – ways that will not prepare them to stand before the Judgment Seat of God, when their life in this world comes to an end.

Luke ends this revelation with John returning to the main theme of his mission: exhorting them in many ways, he preaches good news to the people. The rejoicing is grounded both in the receiving and the sharing of the News that the Savior is coming, and will soon be here. John baptizes only with water, but the Messiah will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. That fire purifies what is good, and destroys what is not. It is a sign of God’s power and God’s presence (remember the pillar of fire that led God’s people through the desert night, and the tongues of fire that come down upon the disciples at Pentecost).

Our mission is not unlike that of John the Baptist. It is our task as Christians, whether priests, religious or lay people, to bring others to greater awareness of the presence of God in our lives, an awareness that brings real joy and happiness into their lives – just as they bring the same joy and happiness into ours.

Whoever we are – parents, teachers, religious, priests – we must remember that we are God’s messengers. Our purpose is not to force people to behave in a certain way – even less, to be just like us. Our mission is, like John the Baptist, to lead people to Jesus so that they might know him as Savior, Lord, Friend and Brother. And, like John the Baptist to step aside once the introductions are made, and leave the real work of salvation to the Savior. At the same time, Jesus does need our cooperation. He works through parents, teachers, neighbors; everyone is called to be a messenger. Peter, Andrew, James and John were the Baptist’s disciples until they met Jesus. In turn, they brought others to know and experience Jesus after he returned to the Father. That is the meaning of bearing witness: bringing the Good News to others.


Elizabeth Mahlou said...

I think it is important to remember that we bear witness not just with words but in our behavior. The latter, in my experience, is far more effective.

Sarah in the tent said...

'He will rejoice over you with gladness'

I like this part of the reading from Zephaniah. It reminds me of the time when Jesus rejoiced over his 'children'.