December 9, 2009 // Uncategorized

Goodness and peace will prevail

3rd Sunday in Advent
Lk 3:10-18

An atmosphere of delighted expectation overtakes this weekend’s liturgy. It is “Gaudete Sunday,” a name taken from the Latin rendition of the first word of the Entrance Antiphon, “To rejoice.” The Lord is near!

Priests may opt to wear rose vestments. These vestments symbolize that the brightness of the Lord’s coming already is creeping across the horizon.
More properly, it is the third Sunday of Advent. The Book of Zephaniah furnishes the first reading. It is a short book, only three brief chapters. Little is known about this prophet. This much, however, is known. Zephaniah was the son of Chusi and traced his ancestry to Hezekiah, presumably King Hezekiah of Judah.

Evidently, the book was written between 640 B.C. and 609 B.C., or during the reign of King Josiah of Judah. Josiah was a reformer, and his reforms were religious in intent and in impact. The kings saw themselves as representatives and agents of God. Aside from all else, their duty was to draw the people more closely to God. When the people are faithful to God, they bring peace and prosperity upon themselves. 

Zephaniah, obviously, supported this effort. This weekend’s reading is an exuberant and bold exclamation of joy.

The Epistle to the Philippians provides the second reading. Philippi was a city, in what today is Greece, founded centuries before Christ and named in honor King Philip, the father of Alexander the Great.

By the time of the first century A.D., it was an important center in the Roman Empire, and it was important as a military base.
Such centers often became the sites of Christian communities, as there was much movement of people through the empire. People moved to and fro, bringing their ideas and values, such as Christianity.

As was the reading from Zephaniah, this reading is filled with excitement and joy. The coming of the Lord is predicted, and it will be soon. Such was the assumption of many of the early Christians.

When Jesus would come again, all wrongs would be righted. Evil would be defeated. To prepare, Christians should conform themselves as much as possible and in every respect to the Lord.

The epistle proclaims that this holy transformation has occurred. It delightedly declares that the Christians of Philippi are unselfish.
St. Luke’s Gospel is the source of the last reading. In this reading, John the Baptist appears, urging that the man with two coats give one to the poor.
John also tells a tax collector to assess only the fixed amount. The Roman system of taxation was in effect legalized extortion. The Roman authorities were not able, or even inclined, to send citizens of Rome into the far reaches of the empire to collect taxes. So locals had to be induced to do the work.

Local tax collectors were turncoats, despised as such. So, some incentive was necessary. Profit made it worthwhile.

They achieved their profit by adding to the assessed tax their own demand. The law required the taxpayers to meet these demands.

Details aside, when the messiah is acknowledged, goodness and peace will prevail.

These readings all predict the coming of God’s power and justice. Such is the Lord’s promise. However, even while the Scriptures look forward to a sudden, dramatic coming of Jesus in glory, these readings this weekend also remind us that we can bring Jesus into our lives and into our communities by living the Gospel.

In the long run, Advent’s advantage is that it allows us to bring Jesus into our own hearts and lives.

With Jesus in our lives, no time is complete darkness. The sunbeams of hope and peace will pierce the blackest of moments. Jesus, the messiah, came — and comes to us — as the Light of the World.

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