December 12, 2021
We light the third candle in our Advent Wreath. It is pink symbolizing joy. Our Scripture readings agree. The Jewish prophet, Zephaniah, the Psalmist and Saint Paul create a chorus encouraging us to be joyful. We need this encouragement during distressing times.
Zephaniah lives in Judah when the nation is threatened by imperial powers of Assyria, Egypt, and Babylon. He has been a prophet of doom. “The day of the Lord is coming.” But in the verses near the end of his warnings of impending divine judgment, the prophet urges Judah, daughter Zion, to rejoice. Two times he tells the people, “The Lord is in your midst.” He goes on to say that God “will rejoice over you with gladness.” Joy is a Godlike virtue.
The Psalmist sings, “Cry out with joy and gladness for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.”
Saint Paul sits in prison not knowing if he will be executed or released. He writes to the Church at Philippi, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near.” Paul encourages the Philippians to “have no anxiety at all, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.”
We skeptically wonder whether it is possible to rejoice. We hear Zephaniah, the Psalmist and St. Paul reassure us that the Lord is near. But like the crowds, tax collectors and soldiers who come to John the Baptist near the Jordan River, we ask, “What should we do?” John exhorts those seeking a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, to live with integrity and generosity: share a second cloak and food with those who have none, do not rip people off, and don’t coerce or push people around.
The source or fountain of joy is both living with consciousness that God is present even in adversity and in suffering and living with mercy and justice for others. Today, at Mass, we are aware of the presence of Jesus Christ in the Word and Eucharist and mindful of persons and families in need who will receive the “Stars of Bethlehem” gifts in the sanctuary at Christmas.
John the Baptist prepares the way of the Lord by insisting that the Christ will come with “the Holy Spirit and fire.” Jesus is the Christ. We pray that Jesus will ask the Father and send the Holy Spirit to activate gifts of joy and the fire of ardent love in our hearts for those most in need
Second Sunday of Advent
Fourth Sunday of Advent