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Bulletin: December 16, 2018

Third Sunday of Advent

The prophetic writings we hear in today’s scriptures call us to rejoice and celebrate the goodness of God. Zephaniah, Isaiah, Saint Paul, and John the Baptist in Luke’s Gospel all follow the rich tradition of the Biblical prophets, a tradition that reaches full expression in Jesus. The prophets warn that human failings have truly disastrous consequences. All are summoned to repent, and to change their lives. Today we hear the Good News that God’s gracious love exceeds and overcomes all human corruption. God has not given up on us. Indeed, God keeps pursuing us, and eagerly seeks to reconcile with us. God’s initiative to set the world aright culminates with Jesus, whose coming John the Baptist announces. John’s prophetic message summons us to join in God’s reconciling work, by living generously and justly in our daily lives. As we rejoice in God’s grace, we then extend this grace to all.


Zephaniah’s description of God in today’s first reading is quite striking. It is remarkable that after most of the book of Zephaniah paints a dark picture of God’s judgment on the “Day of the Lord,” we see God singing with joy, partying and celebrating, bursting with love for the Chosen People. Such is God’s delight in us human beings.

In the scriptures, there seem to be two kinds of moments when God is especially delighted. First, during creation, when God creates something beautiful: not only the whole universe, but also individual human persons, made in God’s image. Second, after times of separation, when God celebrates the restoration of intimacy with God’s beloved.

As Paul writes to the Church in Philippi, those on the path of faith might somehow get swept up in God’s joy. Because in Christ and through the Holy Spirit, God continually speaks and listens to those in united in faith. We participate in God’s delight in creation when we are creative ourselves, when we add to the world’s beauty. We also participate when we join in the work of reconciliation and act to heal human divisions and restore relationships.


In today’s Gospel, those who listened to John the Baptist’s prophetic preaching were quite troubled, and moved to ask “What should we do?” Although John had given dire warnings about what might happen if they did not sincerely repent, he did not suggest drastic actions. He recommended that people begin where they are, and work within their daily circumstances. Share generously. Treat people fairly. Be content with what you have. These were perhaps small steps turning them, in God’s time, toward deeper change.

A first step for us might be to learn, however slowly, to listen to God speaking within the context of our lives. We can respond with small concrete actions and perhaps learn what God wishes to say through them. We can then listen anew for the next step.

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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