• Advent 3 C

    Posted on December 20, 2018 by in Reflections on Sunday Gospels
    Advent inspires so much in me.  I get carried away a bit in what follows.
    1)  I decided to begin with what I formally titled a P.S.  You might want to stay only with these thoughts.
    2) I then reproduce an extended homily from a Claretion community web site.
    3) To end I reproduce the prayers of the faithful from the same site.
    3rd Sunday of Advent P.S.

    1)Calls to REJOICE and REFORM:

    Rejoice:  W.C. Watkinson tells of walking with his grandson.  They met an older minister who not only looked sad and disgruntled but spoke of how bleak and awful are these days in which we live.  He complained as well that he was suffering from a touch of sunstroke.  Watkinson’s grandson stood by and listened.  After the conversation ended and they had walked a short distance, the boy looked up to his grandpa and said, “Gramps, I hope you never suffer from a sunset!”  The child got the words wrong but he got the image right.  Many people today suffer from a sunset;  they are ambassadors of gloom and despair.

       Teilhard de Chardin once said that joy and laughter are the surest signs of the presence of God.  Isn’t it a shame that so few facilitate that presence, that so many display a sunset rather than a sunrise.

    Reform:  “Not long ago, I saw a bumper sticker that said, ‘Houses: everybody should have one before anybody can have two.’  I imagine John the Baptist with that saying on his car if he were driving around in the year 2018.

       As he challenged people to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, John the Baptist preached a simple but powerful message. He told people to share.  It is not right for some people to have more than they need while others do not have enough to get by.  (Reminds me of the saying of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton:  “We must all live simply, so that others may simply live.”) 

    ¼it seems that the most serious of sins, the sin that John the Baptist and Jesus condemn most forcefully is greed.  Sadly, it seems that our society has come to accept greed.”  (In the world community of nations, which nation is known as the nation of Greed?  U.S.)


    2) This sermon comes from the web site Koinonia coordinated by the Claretion Community in Panama   My title would be: What should we do?

    Third Sunday of Advent CReadingsZechariah 3: 14-17: Rejoice. The Lord, your God is in your midst.Is. 12, 2-6: The Lord is my strength and my salvationPhil. 4,4-7: Rejoice. The Lord is nearLuke. 3, 10-18: The people were asking John: what should we do?  Zechariah exercises his ministry during the reign of King Josiah, a little before the reform undertaken by this king and before the ministry of Jeremiah (about 630 BCE). This book treats of a time, which is especially dramatic and turbulent both in regards to politics and religion: it is the time of Syrian expansion and one can observe in the people a certain religious indifference.  From these crises comes forth a faithful rest of the Lord, “the Rest of Israel”, which resides in Jerusalem, free and holy, whose king will be Yahweh himself: this is the sentiment of the first liturgical reading of today. In this Psalm of happiness we can detect (emphasize) the presence of the Lord in person (two times in this short passage). He will be the king of the city, which is restored, and the fountain of happiness, who will expel from Jerusalem everything that can cause fear and he will treat the city like a bridegroom treats his beloved. The great happiness of the Lord, which saves, will spread to all the people. Not in vain are we in the third Sunday of Advent. The reading from the Apostle is a small fragment of the departure speech of Paul to the Community at Philippi. These phrases are a reflection of the prayer of the early Church “Marana tha”, come Lord. The type of life the Christians ought to live is motivated by the closeness of the Lord (“the Lord is near”, v 5) or, we might say, by a life “in the Lord”. The consequences of this attitude translate into the qualities that the apostle enumerates, those that emphasize peace and happiness. The prophetic voice of John the Baptist continues resonating in the Gospel of today. Between the text of the past Sunday and today we meet verses 7-9, in which Luke has a summary of the preaching of John. As a fruit of this preaching the question comes to the fore from the people (“what should we do?”) This question is motivated by a sincere desire for conversion.  John responds first in a general way and then in a specific way to the two groups. He proposes a life in the Kingdom of God, such as is proper to the preaching of Jesus. To the tax collectors and the soldiers, he proposes practical behavior which is just and humanitarian. He does not ask them to renounce their profession, even though this profession was viewed by the Jewish people of this time as despicable. By referring to these people-which is proper to Luke-the evangelist indicates to us his interest to manifest the universality of salvation, offering it to those who “officially” are sinners and on the margin. In a second moment, the evangelist presents us with an announcement typically messianic of the Baptist. This is found after an introduction which describes the psychological state of the people (they were in doubt and everyone was asking.” v 15). The finality of verses 16-17 is to show the big difference between John and Jesus. The difference is both in the persons (John is unworthy to untie the strap of the sandal of Jesus), and in what they offer: John baptizes “with water” as a sign of conversion; Jesus will offer a radical transformation to people by way of a life in communion with God. To speak of “the Holy Spirit and the flame” as Luke does, already catches a glimpse of the Christian Pentecost. Finally, the last verse is an image that is directly eschatological and concerning divine judgment. The work of separating the wheat from the chaff suggests the prophetic epoch (cf. Is 27,12), the definitive judgment of God. The third Sunday of Advent has in the liturgical tradition of the Church a strong tone of happiness. Both the entrance antiphon and the second reading begin with the words: “Rejoice”. At the same time, the celebration receives also the powerful imprint of John the Baptist, just like a week ago. It seems logical then, that we reflect on these two points. 1- The presence of the Lord is the reason for our happiness. There is a clear parallel in themes in the first two readings of today. The first, from the prophet Zechariah, is an invitation to joy and jubilee, which is directed to the people of Israel in one of the worst moments of their history. They are frightened and discouraged because of sufferings and tests. Paul invites the Christians of Philippi to live always content and happy, despite the difficulties of each day. In both cases, the profound motive of happiness is the same; it is the living presence of the Lord in the midst of the community. “Don’t fear. Don’t be people of shaky hands! The Lord your God is in your midst as a hero who saves.” This is the message of Zechariah. “‘The Lord is near, don’t let anything disturb you,” St. Paul says to the Philippians. Precisely here is the authentic motive of Christian happiness: faith in the presence of the Lord in our midst. It is an invisible presence, but real and efficacious. “While waiting for Christmas Is it possible to live in happiness and hope in Latin America in these days of hunger and misery?” Gustavo Gutierrez asked this question not many years ago. And he continued: “We cannot give a superficial response. We must not forget that human beings don’t live by prayer alone. But neither can we leave aside that the fountains of happiness are deep and provide reserves of hope and transformation for human life. Happiness stubbornly persists in the midst of suffering. It hinders these sufferings from being turned into sadness, into bitterness. It hinders them from being turned in on oneself. This would be a tragedy in moments in which a great solidarity is needed among the poor themselves. In all of this, we should plant our feet in history to confront the present adversity with the conviction that Zechariah inspires in us.” The first fruit which this attitude produces is peace: “Therefore, the peace of God, which is much more than you can imagine, will guard your heart and yours thoughts in Christ Jesus” (second reading). 2. – The presence of the Lord demands a constant conversion. John the Baptist, the signifying figure in the time of Advent, is presented as the preacher of conversion. This is not an abstract and non-efficacious conversion, but a change of mentality that translates into concrete acts. In just this way his listeners understand it and for this reason they ask what they must do to be converted before the immense challenge of the arrival of the Lord. John does not propose spectacular things, nor does he demand that they abandon their respective human situation. He tells them simply that they are to live without making concession to egoism or to arrogance. That they should share their goods with the poor, that they should not extort nor blackmail, should not mistreat anyone. The signs of conversion are in an elemental phase. Overcoming egoism is the basic condition of authentic conversion and supposes a constant attitude. But this is only the first step. John does not propose other steps, because authentic conversion will be preached by the One who is much more powerful than him. The demands of Jesus will surpass by far the level indicated by John. The Baptist himself expresses this in a graphic manner when he says: “I baptize with water¼ he will baptize in the Holy Spirit and in fire.” The perception of Jesus will be much more rigorous, and his judgment will be definitive, comparable to the separation that happens between the wheat and the chaff. The wheat will be gathered, the chaff will be burned. Just so, Jesus demands of those who would follow him, beyond the constant struggle against egoism, an attitude of total handing over in service to the poor. It is not enough to not cause bad things, but on the contrary we must give all that we have. Only Jesus can demand this because he says it and he does it. His handing over of himself to death, which we commemorate in each Eucharist, ought to be our ideal of conversion.

     For personal Conversion. It’s a good time, this Advent, to ask the same question that the people asked after hearing John: “and us, what ought we to do?” Ask also of conversion, what more ought I to do. In the light of this Gospel, what do I believe that the radical prophet John would say to me? What should I do? For the reunion of the community or the biblical group. In this coming Christmas we return to receive the happiness and jubilation of the birth of Christ. But, we must ask ourselves: Can we see in some place, in our world, in our country, in our society, the signs of the arrival of the Kingdom of God? Is Christmas in the world? Where is Jesus born? Really what does it mean to be Christmas? Are health, life, employment, and justice arriving for the poor? What about the Good News? What can we do so that this Christmas Jesus is born around us?




    The prayer of the Faithful

    -That in this Advent we continue feeding our hope, examining it, making it more profound and sharing it, we pray to the Lord.  

    -For all those who in these Christmas days which are near, feel sad or nostalgic, far from their families, in aloneness¼. that the power of their love overcome all these distances and make them feel the universal communion¼

    -That we can prepare the celebration of Christmas with realism trying to bring about that “Jesus is born effectively” to our neighbors¼

    -That the distance from today to the ideal situation which all dreamers are seeking, that this distance does not lead us to resignation or fatalism, but rather that this distance is overcome in constancy, in faith which doesn’t give up, in the resistance and force to bring near once and again the ideal of the Kingdom¼

    -That in these vespers of Christmas the austerity of John the Baptist, the precursor reminds us that sobriety in spending motivated by the desire to share with the most needy is for the poor, good news which announces the actual birth of Jesus¼

    Let Us PrayOh God and Father-Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ: while the very affectionate feast of Christmas is coming near, we ask you that you make flower in our lives the best of our own heart, that we may share with our brothers and sisters which surround us, your tenderness, your own love, of which you have made us participants. We ask this through Jesus, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, and with us lives and walks, for ever and ever. Amen.

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