The Third Sunday of Advent
Our readings for the 3rd Sunday of Advent reflect beautifully the theme for this day when we light our Pink candle signifying Joy! Phrases like: Shout for joy; Sing joyfully; Cry out with joy and gladness; all point the way to the something new and mighty soon to arrive on the scene. And in the context of the world we inhabit today, I might add that it is a very timely reminder that the Good News cannot be drowned out—even now.
Our Gospel picks up a few verses beyond last Sunday with the prophet Isaiah: a voice crying out ………..heralding that all flesh will see the salvation of God ….. straight paths, hills and valleys becoming level. Something new is arriving and the crowds seem to be caught up in this wave of anticipation. We read that the people were filled with expectation having heard these Messianic verses and they wonder if John is the Messiah. In what seems like a wonderful reflection of the baptism of repentance which John performed, the first reading from the prophet Zephaniah confirms this notion that the “Lord has removed the judgement against you.”
In preparation for this coming of the Messiah they questioned John, “What should we do?” His answer is to share what you have—live in awareness of your brother or sister’s need. Plain and simple; John’s teaching is an opportunity for us to share so as not to be possessed by our possessions. It is an invitation to become a community taking care of each other and living in God’s justice together.
We live only 80 miles from the recent terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California an event which has caused great pain and suffering. Our hearts go out to those who are affected by such a senseless, violent act. For the rest of us, tragic events like these can rattle nerves, rob us of our sense of security and take away our peace. If we are not careful, fear can enter and take a foothold. The readings remind us that we must not fear or be discouraged. God is our mighty savior who rejoices over us with gladness and renews us in his love.
Paul calls us to rejoice always. He wrote this letter while in prison in Rome before being put to death. Yet, he doubly reminds us, rejoice! Let your kindness to known to all, he enjoins us to have no anxiety at all; and follows up with how we are to pray in these situations when fear beckons. Why? Because the Lord is near! The context in which he was writing makes a serious statement of surrender under any circumstance and is a good lesson for us to ponder.
We know that we cannot control much of what can happen and yet somehow we are seduced into imagining that we can.
“Before man are life and death, whichever he chooses shall be given him” Sirach 15:17
Are we to share our cloak and our food with those who need it in our world or hide in fear? Brothers and sisters, the truth is that we are always called to choose life and break through our fears. This quote I discovered by Pope Francis speaks practical advice to us:
“You will find life by giving life, hope by giving hope, love by giving love.”
Come, Lord Jesus, come mighty savior with your Holy Spirit and fire, renew us in your love. Remove the chaff from our lives so that we may bear fruit that will last and live in your peace which surpasses all understanding. Amen.
Jean Bowler is a retreatant at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, and a member of the Office of Mission Effectiveness Board of Holy Cross Province.