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Bulletin: December 12, 2021

Updated: Dec 10, 2021

Third Sunday of Advent

Today is known as Gaudete—Rejoice—Sunday, the day’s Latin nickname is taken from today’s ancient official Entrance Antiphon, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.” The optional rose vestments—reminiscent of winter’s early morning skies as the solstice draws near, the festal organ music, the floral arrangements, all these ancient traditions together with the antiphon are meant to anticipate, in sight and sound, the soon-to-break-upon-us Christmas joy. How well today’s scriptures illustrate the struggle between Advent’s contrasting moods: “joyful expectation” in light of Christ’s nativity, and “serious repentance” inspired by John the Baptist’s preaching, reminding us that Christ’s next coming—at death or at the end of time—will be for judgment as well as redemption.


Joy and exultation ring through the first reading, as Zephaniah’s ancient messianic prophecy pictures God “rejoicing over (us) with gladness, renewing (us) in his love, singing joyfully because of (us) as one sings at festivals.” This joyful God is not distant: the prophet declares twice that God “is in your midst.” Zephaniah so trusts this joyful God’s love for us that he declares our deliverance “a done deal”: both from inward fear and guilt—“the Lord has removed the judgment against you”—and from external threats: “he has turned away your enemies.” The Responsorial Psalm, from Advent’s principal prophet, Isaiah, echoes an exultant joy that should prompt us to be “confident and unfraid,” “for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.” Paul likewise exhorts the Philippians—and us—to joy, to a kindness that should be evident to all, to prayer free from anxiety, serene and thankful.


But then John the Baptist cries out on Jordan’s bank: Repent! Prepare for a Messiah whose baptism “with the Holy Spirit and fire,” unlike John’s water baptism, will utterly transform its recipients. His winnowing fan will clear away the dead wood, bundling wheat and burning chaff in unquenchable fire. If this is going to be “good news” for us, then well might we, like the crowds, tax collectors, and soldiers who first heard John, ask “What should we do?” When John responds to the people then, and to us today, the answer, while supremely challenging, is almost surprisingly simple. Nobody is ordered to abandon the place in which their personal life’s journey or the realities of a history beyond their control have put them. God saves us not despite or apart from our real-life circumstances but in them and through them. Our call now is to practical, generous charity: we are to share clothing and food; practice justice and professional and personal integrity; and be honest toward others and with ourselves. Such is the teaching of the Messiah that John heralded.

Today’s Readings: Zep 3:14–18a; Is 12:2–3, 4, 5–6; Phil 4:4–7; Lk 3:10–18

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