Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Third Sunday "Gaudete" in Advent

Gaudete “Rejoice” Sunday
December 16, 2012
Zephaniah 3:14-18; Isaiah 12; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:10-18

Today is Gaudete Sunday, which means, “Rejoice.” As the church marks its days and weeks until Christmas, it reminds people to persevere in waiting. The blessed day is coming soon and we are halfway there. Our waiting is marked by a more subtle rose color on the Advent wreath and in the priestly vestments because the time of waiting will shift again.

On December 17th, the church celebrates the O Antiphon Days. As the pace to Christmas hastens, the titles of the Lord are read in Latin at the Gospel acclamation. When the first letter of each title in the Antiphon is made into a sentence and is read on December 24th, it spells ERO CRAS, which means, “Tomorrow, I will come.”

 The Book of Zephaniah tells us of the threats against the kingdom of Judah and the heavenly city of Jerusalem. Universal and cosmic doom awaits all of humanity for turning its back on the Lord. The redeemed ones are not spared in God’s efforts to create a smaller, purer community who rightly worships the Lord. The threat from God eventually turns into a promise of salvation. Through God’s transformative actions, nations are becoming true servants of Yahweh. The people burst into song and shout for joy because the Lord removes judgment against them and he can be found in their midst as a mighty savior ever ready to defend them. Their rejoicing has its setting in victory of an escape from defeat or siege. God has chosen to defend his people.

We see a further continuance of the teaching of John the Baptist as he tells people how to prepare a way for their salvation when they ask, “What shall we do?” Luke is addressing ordinary people and outcasts instead of religious figures. John is God’s prophet who belongs to the period of promise, but inaugurates the time of fulfillment, whose central figure is Jesus. His teaching of repentance and baptism prepares for the advent of Jesus, the Messiah.

The religious leaders of John’s time are unwilling to repent, but ordinary people are. These include people on the fringe of society: toll collectors and soldiers. These are the people who respond favorably to the preaching of Jesus. People in society ought to be as open to finding goodness outside the acceptable ways of life as John and Jesus do. In response to their important question, “what shall we do?” John answers, “you are to have a selfless concern for one’s disadvantage brothers and sisters.” John roots his answer in practical realities. A person is to have proper use of material possessions; therefore, one is to give half of what he has to the poor.

Toll collectors surprisingly come to John for baptism because they want to attain salvation too. Both Jews and Gentiles despise them and it was curious that they sought ethical seriousness. However, normal expectations and deep-seated prejudices are turned upside down. In God’s kingdom, reversal of expectations and God’s love for the despised is the new norm. Toll collectors, eager to respond to the teachings of Jesus, are welcomed for baptism, even though it unsettles the community. The Baptist hopes that a result of baptisms, soldiers will be well disciplined and well behaved in the army and tax collectors will bring about a well-administered system of taxation. This is a fruit of hearing the Gospel. Only hearts that are deeply affected by the Gospel are always open to what God expects as the next concrete requirement after the present one. A well-ordered ethical system will correct systemic injustices. This is the world for which we strive – a network of people who care for one another and make systems more responsive to those in greatest need.

Perhaps this is the reason Paul rejoices with the Philippians. Who wouldn’t? As we hear in Zephaniah, the Lord is near and is working with us and for us. As he is in our lives, we have a strong advocate and therefore we have no worries. It is still good for us to make our requests known to him. He is working on them anyways, but we will get solid assurance so that we know he remembers our concerns and us. This will undoubtedly lift the weight from our shoulders leaving us to do nothing but to rejoice in such a God who cares intimately for us. We will have the peace of God that settles down any anxieties and we will trust more comfortably. Nothing shall disturb us and all shall be well.

We continue our waiting, but it has certainly changed. We now have hopeful expectations that the Lord will reveal himself anew in our hearts and minds soon. His advent will touch something fundamental in us that will inspire us to make the world a better place – a place of merciful justice and a place of peace that defies understanding. It will be a place much like Isaiah’s peaceable kingdom in which the lion shall lie down with the lamb, where adversaries become friends once again, where right relationships exist because we understand each others’ needs, and the world will exist in much greater harmony. This is quite a kingdom. The love we receive because we allow the Lord to come into our lives in a fuller, more total way, will be the transformative love that is the needed agent of change in this world. We only see the potential of goodness. And with that, we wait. With that, we rejoice with Paul and all the saints in heaven. Rejoice! And let your goodness be known to all. The Lord in near indeed.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Genesis, Jacob calls his sons together to pay homage to Judah, whom the brothers are to always praise. Jeremiah tells us that the days of coming when the Lord will raise up a shoot to David and he shall reign and govern wisely. In Judges, Manoah, the wife of Zorah, who belonged to the Danite clan, bore a son though she was thought to be barren. She named him Samson and the Spirit of the Lord fell upon him. In Isaiah, the Lord tempted Ahaz to ask for a sign, but he would not do it. Isaiah said to him, “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” In Song of Songs, a young woman pines for her lover. The lover speaks, “Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one, and come!” It is time. In 1 Samuel, Hannah makes her offering to the Lord for blessing her with a son, Samuel. After dedication him to the Lord, she left him with Eli to grow in wisdom and grace.

Gospel: The genealogy of Joseph is read to trace the lineage of Jesus beginning with Abraham. This lineage clearly marks Joseph and Jesus as falling into the Davidic heritage. We then hear how the birth of Jesus came about as Mary was engaged to Joseph and was found with child though she remained a virgin. Joseph accepted Mary into his home as his wife and he became the father of Jesus. Luke gives us the account of the visitation of the angel to Zechariah, the husband of Elizabeth. It occurred when Herod was King of Judea and Zechariah was a priest and Elizabeth was a descendent from Aaron. The angel exclaimed to Zechariah that Elizabeth would conceive in her old age, but Zechariah doubted, which caused him to lose his speech until the day his son, John, was named. The angel Gabriel then visited Mary in a town called Nazareth. He announced to her that she would conceive of the Holy Spirit and would bear a son who will become the Son of God. Mary assented to become the mother of Jesus. Once she conceived, she hastened into the hill country to visit her kinswoman, Elizabeth, who was six months pregnant. Once she arrived, John jumped while in his mother’s womb upon recognizing the presence of his Lord, who was developing in Mary’s womb. Mary sings her song of praise because of the ways the Lord had been so good to her.

Saints of the Week

Saints are not celebrated during the octave leading up to Christmas.

December 17 - O wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love: come to teach us the path of knowledge.

December 18 - O leader of the house of Israel, give of the law to Moses on Sinai: come to rescue us with your mighty power.

December 19 - O root of Jesse's stem, sign of God's love for all the people: come to save us without delay!

December 20 - O key of David, opening the gates of God's eternal kingdom: come and free the prisoners of darkness.

December 21 - O radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.

December 22 - O King of all nations and keystone of the church: come and save us, whom you formed from the dust.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Dec 16, 1544. Francis Xavier entered Cochin.
·      Dec 17, 1588. At Paris, Fr. Henry Walpole was ordained.
·      Dec 18, 1594. At Florence, the apparition of St Ignatius to St Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi.
·      Dec 19, 1593. At Rome, Fr. Robert Bellarmine was appointed rector of the Roman College.
·      Dec 20, 1815. A ukase of Alexander I was published banishing the Society of Jesus from St Petersburg and Moscow on the pretext that they were troubling the Russian Church.
·      Dec 21, 1577. In Rome, Fr. Juan de Polanco, secretary to the Society and very dear to Ignatius, died.
·      Dec 22, 1649. At Cork, Fr. David Glawey, a missionary in the Inner and Lower Hebrides, Islay, Oronsay, Colonsay, and Arran, died.