Third Sunday of Advent - Cycle C
1st Reading: Zephaniah 3:14-18A
Responsorial Psalm: Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6
2nd Reading: Philippians 4:4-7
Gospel: Luke 3:10-18
Note: The third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday and it is a joyous celebration. Although it takes place during the usually penitential period of Advent, Gaudete Sunday serves as a mid-point break for celebration. This week we light the pink candle and the celebrant at Mass will wear rose colored vestments.
In the Middle East, it is a common cultural belief that if someone gains more of something, someone else automatically has less. For example, if someone has two coats, the assumption is that someone else out there has none. This idea would explain the understanding that the desire to have more than one needs is just greed, plain and simple. Realizing this, it is easy to understand why John the Baptist’s message took root in unexpected places; among the poor, the criminals and the soldiers. Tax collectors were usually homeless and poor working for someone else who worked for the government and the soldiers were paid to protect these men. They were painfully aware of their needs and their inadequacies. This really was a motley crew. Luke makes it clear with his language how the society felt about some of these guys. “EVEN the TAX COLLECTORS! and SOLDIERS TOO?” No Way! Why would these heathens be interested in repentance? Remember back to the gospel account on the 1st Sunday of Advent. The world would be turned upside down. All expectations surrounding the coming of the Messiah would be turned upside down. The gospel teaches once again that Jesus came for the whole world, not just a few chosen people.
Throughout all biblical history, God’s dramatic intervention in our human activities is preceded by a messenger of some kind who prepares the way. God is very polite. He would never crash the party uninvited or unannounced. John the Baptist was the preemptive message for the Messiah. His mission was to bring God’s people to faith and in turn challenge them to repentance.
John’s audience wondered if perhaps he was the one “who was to come” … whether John himself was the Messiah. Even Jesus himself said that “among those born of women, none was greater than John the Baptist.” It’s easy to imagine why John was mistaken for the Messiah, but John himself was the biggest opponent to this idea. Again, and again he made it clear that “one that was mightier than he” was coming. But yet the people didn’t know quite what to look for. Discerning Jesus as the Messiah was no easy task. The disciples lived and ministered with Jesus, but it took time to realize that Jesus was more than a prophet and was in actuality the Messiah. And so it goes for us in our relationship with Jesus as Messiah. Early on in our faith journey we may not know what to look for. Discerning Jesus as Messiah is no easier now than it was then…even if we do know the end of the story. It takes effort on our part. We become complacent in our relationship with the Savior and take our understanding of the significance of His coming for granted. Once a year the church reminds us (through Advent scriptural readings) as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. These are not ancient history lessons.
Remember a prophet is someone who speaks from God’s perspective. Who or what is it in your life that speaks from God’s perspective and calls you to prepare this Advent season? Whatever form the messenger takes, the message is the same. We are being called to repent, turn away from sin and prepare our hearts for the coming of the Messiah.
It was John the Baptizer, powerfully preaching the word of God, who moved the hearts of his followers to conversion.
What is conversion?
In what areas of your life do you desire to experience a deeper conversion?
What will you need from God for this conversion?
What keeps you from your conversion?
When will you begin doing the above?
To whom will you turn for help?