The Third Sunday of Advent
God in our midst
Last Advent Sunday we were told by John the Baptist to "prepare the way of the Lord," and now we ask him, with the believing crowds: "What should we do?" As we anticipate and get closer to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are not only told to change the unhealthy ways of being in our day-to-day human relationships, but also encouraged to "rejoice in the Lord always," because "the Lord, [our] God, is in [our] midst. What greater news than this do we need to hear in order to rejoice in the Lord and know that we "have no further misfortune to fear"? Assuredly, we do not need more good news about our Incarnate Lord; we only need to trust in Him, for we know that our saving God has, is and will always be in our midst.
As true as the joyful and hopeful statements of today’s scripture readings are to the faithful, they may not be relevant to many people’s experience of life today, especially the families of the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Such a difficult experience of the unfairness of life is also true for many more families across the country and other parts of the world where social unrest and domestic violence seem to reign and affect their lives rather than the justice, peace, and joy that today’s liturgical and biblical message proclaims. In effect, though the themes of justice, peace, and joy are woven into the liturgy and the readings on this rejoicing Sunday of Advent, perhaps they do not have the same convincing power for all the faithful. For the ills of sin and death overwhelm the lives of many with pain and suffering.
We may all be dealing with our own personal and collective issues and struggles, which can affect and reflect our lack of perception and appreciation of the Lord’s presence in our lives and our midst. But the words of the prophets Zephaniah and John the Baptist reveal an undisputable truth for all who firmly believe in the saving power of the One who is in our midst "a mighty savior" and thus baptizes us with "the Holy Spirit and fire." Hence, whether it is in the joyful or miserable moments, in the prosperity or the adversity, or in the living or dying of our lives, we tend to have a deep awareness and appreciation of Christ’s presence in our lives and our midst, which gives us the strength and courage of his Holy Spirit to go through all kinds of human experiences in our lives. We are therefore called to seek and find Christ in the least and ordinary events of our lives, so that we can be better prepared to accept God’s will, comfort, and strength in the more difficult and unexpected circumstances of our lives.
Fr. Alfredo Ocampo, C.P. gives retreats and parish missions. He is stationed at Holy Name Passionist Community in Houston, Texas.