Third Sunday of Advent
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. Night is ending.
It is the Third Sunday of Advent. The Book of Zephaniah furnishes the first reading. It is a short book, only three brief chapters. This much is known about Zephaniah: He 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 were faithful to God, they brought peace and prosperity upon themselves.
Zephaniah believed this. He was a good king. 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 of 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 a major military base.
Such centers often became the sites of Christian communities, as there was much movement of people through the empire. People moved to the great cities, bringing their ideas and values, such as Christianity.
As was the reading from Zephaniah, this reading is filled with excitement and joy. It predicts the coming of the Lord, and the Lord will come soon. Such was the assumption of many of the early Christians. They thought that when Jesus came, all wrongs would be righted. Evil would be defeated. To prepare, devout Christians sought to conform themselves as much as possible to the Lord.
The epistle proclaims that this holy transformation is occurring, declaring that the Christians of Philippi are unselfish and committed.
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 law required taxpayers to meet these demands.
The Roman authorities were not able, or even inclined, to send citizens of Rome into the far reaches of the empire to collect taxes. Locals had to be induced to do the work.
Local tax collectors were seen as greedy and, moreover, as turncoats. They surrendered all honor and loyalty for a monetary profit, achieved through the crooked process of Roman taxation.
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 prompts us to bring Jesus into our own hearts and surroundings.
With Jesus in our lives, sunbeams of hope and peace will pierce the blackest of moments. Jesus, the Messiah, came — and comes — as the Light of the World. He is near! Christmas is near. Gaudete! Rejoice!
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