Posts Tagged ‘IS 12’

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, December 13, 2015 — “Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!” — “He gathers the wheat into his barn.”

December 12, 2015

Third Sunday of Advent
Lectionary: 9

Reading 1 ZEP 3:14-18A

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you
he has turned away your enemies;
the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
he will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

Responsorial Psalm IS 12:2-3, 4, 5-6

R. (6) Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.
R. Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;
among the nations make known his deeds,
proclaim how exalted is his name.
R. Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,
for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel!
R. Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

Reading 2 PHIL 4:4-7

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all.
The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Alleluia IS 61:1 (CITED IN LK 4:18)

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 3:10-18

The crowds asked John the Baptist,
“What should we do?”
He said to them in reply,
“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them,
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.”

Now the people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people.

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Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
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Third Sunday of Advent, Modern

Sunday, December 13, 2015Zephaniah 3: 14 – 18A; Phillippians 4: 4 – 7; Gospel Luke 3: 10 – 18

The first three sentences of the reading from the Prophet Zephaniah begin with, “Shout for joy, …..Sing joyfully, …Be glad and exult with all your heart.” These sum up the joy found in the remainder of this reading, the reading we have from Saint Paul to the Phillippians, and also of this Third Sunday of Advent. Advent was originally observed as a penitential season to prepare us for Christmas. When we cross the midway point as we do this Sunday, the message is one of joyful expectation. This Sunday is knows as Gaudete Sunday, which means Joy Sunday. The celebrant is able to wear rose colored vestments today rather than the dark purple of penance. We are called to begin to rejoice because the celebration of Christ’s birth is near.

The first two readings are both interesting when you look at the context in which they call us to rejoice. The prophet Zephaniah lived at a time when the Israelites had turned away from the Lord and to other Gods. The book of Zephaniah is only three chapters and in those chapters says much about judgment and redemption. The first Chapter is about the Day of destruction. This is a day on which God strikes back at the Israelites with great destruction and suffering. Reading this chapter you might recognize verses very similar to those that at one time were sung at funerals—the Dies Irae, or as I recall from the early vernacular Funeral Mass—“ Day of wrath and day of mourning, see foretold the prophets warning.” The second Chapter speaks of the infidelity of Israel to God and the covenant with Him. Chapter two speaks of the “judgment by God” Zephaniah calls the people to gather together before the destruction takes place, humble themselves before God, and renew their faith in God. By doing this not only will God spare them, they will be restored and become victorious. Finally, Chapter three speaks of the Restoration of Jerusalem. In three short Chapters, Zephaniah’s prophecy goes from a feeling of hopelessness and defeat, to a promise of restoration and joy.

The letter of Saint Paul to the Phillippians is often times referred to as a letter of joy. Paul tells them that in spite of the difficulties they are facing; internal problems of envy and rivalry, along with opponents who are trying to intimidate them so as to turn away from the faith, don’t give up. Paul, writing from prison and his own difficult situation, encourages them to be steadfast and to rejoice.

Each of us from time to time faces difficult situations. Whether it be a struggle with our faith, and even a slipping away from God as the Israelites in Zephaniah’s time, the struggles within our particular Christian communities, or even the people who challenge us and question our faith in ways that might intimidate us, we can become discouraged. The celebration today and the readings acknowledge these, and tell us to rejoice. Never lose sight that Immanuel—God is with us. Even in our deepest struggles Jesus is with us, and his presence should bring us inner joy.

The Gospel sums this up, and I will paraphrase what I hear John the Baptist saying, “The Messiah who we are waiting for is already with us. Open your eyes to see him, open your heart to listen to him, and allow him to enter into your lives. Rejoice! Jesus is here.” May these last weeks of Advent be a time when we are filled with the joyful expectation of receiving Christ more deeply in our lives.

http://www.saintvincentarchabbey.org/sunday_homily
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.

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Commentary on Zephaniah 3:14-18; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:10-18 From Living Space

THE ADVENT SEASON is basically a penitential period. And therefore the colour of the vestments, as in Lent, is purple or violet. It is a time when we are invited through fasting or some other form of self-denial to prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas by a genuine experience of repentance and renewal. However, in Advent as in Lent, the Church cannot refrain from “jumping the gun”, so to speak, by anticipating, if only briefly, the coming mood of celebration.

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So this Sunday is often referred to as “Gaudete Sunday” from the first word of the Entrance Antiphon in the Latin original, Gaudete (“Rejoice!”). And indeed today’s Mass text is suffused with expressions of joy and jubilation. Even the colour of the vestments can be modified from penitential purple to a pinkish colour (officially termed “rose”).

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“Rejoice in the Lord always,” says the Entrance Antiphon. (If we sing our opening hymn, it should reflect the same mood.) “Shout for joy… Rejoice, exult with all your heart” is the invitation of the First Reading from the prophet Zephaniah. “[The Lord] will exult with joy over you, he will renew you by his love; he will dance with shouts of joy for you as on a day of festival…”

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“Sing and shout for joy for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel” is the response to the Psalm and, in the Second Reading, Paul invites the Christians of Philippi: “I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord; I repeat, what I want is your happiness…”
The Gospel is more low-key but there also it tells us that “a feeling of expectancy had grown among the people…”

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A basic mood

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Joy should, in fact, be the basic mood of the Christian. It should not be something artificial or forced but something that bubbles up naturally from our sharing Christ’s vision of life. Joy should be the normal experience of the Christian but there are quite a few who unfortunately do not have that experience or conviction.

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At times one gets the impression that it is not the experience of many Christians, who somehow have come to believe that religion is a serious business, that one is not living a good Christian life unless it is full of sacrifices, that Christianity means giving up many of the pleasure that are available to non-Christians. They seem to think that being a Christian means living a half life as the price for a better one to come.

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Karl Marx saw religion as the “opium of the people”, meaning the poorer classes. Religion, he believed, worked as a kind of anaesthetic or opiate, devised by the rich and privileged, which helped the poor accept the miseries and injustices of the present life on the understanding that there was something much better on the far side of the grave.

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All this is a great pity because the whole purpose of Jesus’ coming was to bring freedom, joy and peace to people not only in the future but here and now. No one is meant to be more free than the Christian who follows Christ not in pain but in joy and enthusiasm. I am not a Catholic because I have to be; I am a Catholic because I could not imagine myself being anything else. We share the words of Peter to Jesus: “Where can we go? You have the words that give life.”

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There used to be a saying, “A sad saint is a sad kind of saint.” A sad Christian is a contradiction in terms. That is not to say that there are not in any Christian life – as in any normal person’s life – times of pain, of sickness, of failure, of great loss. Grieving and letting go is an important part of life but these experiences will only bring temporary setbacks.

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Every experience, if we can only realise it, is touched by God and has its meaning. Once that meaning is found and accepted, inner joy and peace can return. And the joy we are talking about is not something external. It has little to do with the high jinks we see during a socialising party or after our team wins a big match. Much of that can be a kind of temporary escape from lives that are experienced as boring, oppressive and unfree.

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Christian joy or happiness is deep down in the heart and is not incompatible with physical and emotional pain or difficult external circumstances. It is, as Jesus says, something that no one can take away from us. And as Fr Tony de Mello says in his book “Awareness”: We have everything we need here and now to be happy. The problem is that we identify our happiness with people or things we don’t have and often can’t have.

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What are we to do?

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Today’s Gospel speaks of the expected coming of Jesus. This coming is being proclaimed by John the Baptist as he preaches by the waters of the River Jordan. After having heard what John had to say, his hearers asked a very sensible question: “What must we do, then?” It is a question we might well ask ourselves as we prepare for the coming of Jesus this Christmas. Repentance calls for a change in behaviour and not just regret for the past.

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Luke describes three kinds of people who are listening to John the Baptist: the crowd in general; tax collectors; and soldiers. John answers each of them according to their way of life. To the ordinary people, he tells them to share what they have – their clothes and food – with those who are in need. If they are really sorry for their sins, that is, if they really want to change their lives, they will become brothers and sisters to others – even total strangers. We might consider what we could share with others this Christmas.

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Tax collectors had a rather bad reputation in Jesus’ time. The Romans used to farm out the right to collect taxes to private individuals. These would pay a lump sum to the government and were then left to their own devices to get back that money – and make a profit besides. Needless to say, such a system led to a good deal of extortion. There were no anti-corruption agencies in those days! John tells them to be just in what they collected.

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Soldiers, too, were not very popular. The advice John gives sounds just as relevant today as it did then: “No intimidation! No extortion! Be content with your official pay!”

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Was John the Messiah?

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After hearing such wise and sensible teaching, the people were beginning to wonder if John was not actually the Messiah himself. As mentioned earlier, there was a great mood of expectation that the Messiah’s appearance was imminent.

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John, however, immediately disabuses them. He is certainly not the Messiah, the Saviour King that is to come. The real Messiah will be much greater. John will not even be worthy to untie the laces of his sandals – the work of a slave for his master.

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John only baptises with water but the Messiah will baptise with the Holy Spirit and fire. That fire purifies what is good and destroys what is evil. It is a sign of God’s power and God’s loving presence (remember the pillar of fire that accompanied the Jews at night in the desert? Or the fire of the Spirit coming down on the disciples after the resurrection?).

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And our role is not unlike that of John the Baptist. For it is also our task as Christians – whether lay persons, religious or priests – to bring people to genuine conversion, a conversion that brings them face to face with Jesus and God and also a conversion that brings a real joy and happiness into their lives.

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Our role as ‘precursors’

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Parents, especially Christian parents, have this role. They gradually form their children to have the Christian spirit and outlook on life. A Christian family will be one of real joy. A place to which each member returns with joyful anticipation and expectancy, in other words, a real home.

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Teachers, too, are like John the Baptist. A Christian teacher is always aware of being Christian in the presence of students, irrespective of the subject being taught. After the student has long graduated, he may not remember a word from those lessons, he may never in his later career have used the knowledge he was given but he will remember the personality of his teacher. Some teachers are remembered with affection forever; others are best forgotten.

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Whatever we are – parents, teachers, civil servants, employers, doing business, self-employed – we need to remember that we are God’s instruments. We are not making people do what we say, forcing them to behave in a certain way, still less to be just like us. Our aim is, like John the Baptist, to lead people to the feet of Jesus that they may know him personally as Saviour, Lord, Brother and Friend. Our role is, like John the Baptist, to step aside once the introductions are over and leave Jesus to do his work.

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At the same time, Jesus does need our co-operation. Jesus works through every parent and every teacher and everyone who has a call to form people. Peter and Andrew began as John the Baptist’s disciples until they met Jesus. Then they left John and walked with Jesus. In turn, they brought other people to know and experience Jesus. That is the pattern and meaning of evangelisation, of bringing the Gospel to others.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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13 DECEMBER 2015, 3rd Sunday of Advent
THE NEARNESS OF THE LORD AS THE CAUSE OF OUR JOY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: ZEPH 3:14-18; PHIL 4:4-7; LK 3:10-18

We have just passed the halfway mark of Advent.  This third Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as “Rejoice Sunday”. What is the reason for the Church’s joy this Sunday?  Simply this: because the Lord is very near.   Yes, we have every reason to be happy today because God has forgiven us unconditionally.  There is no need to think of our past.  We must let go of our crippling past, which is our greatest enemy, so that the new life of joy and happiness can be ours.  We need not let fear and guilt control our lives.  We must not allow our narrow outlook of life and resentment to blind us to the goodness that God has given to us.

For this reason, the mood of today’s liturgy is one of joy and festival.  We might think that we are hopeless, great sinners and condemned to a life of misery and unhappiness.  But to us all, the scriptures want to tell us that happiness is within our reach.  Happiness is so near to us.  God is coming into our hearts.  But we must open our hearts to receive Him.

How?  By removing the obstacles that prevent Him from coming into our lives and being present to us; for it is His absence that results in emptiness and sadness since there is no love in us.  What then are these obstacles?

Firstly, we must remove the obstacle of selfishness and a closed heart.  This is what John demanded of the people.  He said, “If anyone has two tunics he must share with the one who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.”  In saying this, John is not simply asking us to share our abundance.  He is not saying, “You have three shirts, please give away one.”  No, he is saying, “Keep only one for yourself.  The rest, please give to those who do not have.”  In other words, John is saying that anything above our basic needs must be shared with others.

The truth is that unless we have a compassionate, loving and generous heart, we cannot share the heart of Christ.  The inability to share and to love will make us inward looking.  As a result, we become cut off not only from God but from others as well.  To be able to have a greater capacity to love and to share means to have a larger heart, which is to share in the heart of God.

Secondly, John says that we must live an honest life.  To the tax collectors, John said, “Exact no more than your rate.”  Why?  Because it was bad enough that they were collecting taxes for the Romans, their oppressors but to collect more than what they should so that they could keep the balance for themselves is to cheat the poor and increase the misery of the poor.  The flip side of this dishonesty and greed is that we will find no peace in our hearts.  We will live in guilt and fear.  Indeed, without a life of honesty and integrity, we cannot find peace in our hearts.  We live in fear that one day the truth might be out.

Thirdly, we are called to live a contented life.  Indeed, contentment is a necessary pre-requisite for happiness.  When we are not contented with what we have, then we become envious, jealous and greedy.  We begin to find fault with others.  We become vindictive and revengeful.  Some of us might even use unscrupulous means to get what we want.  As a result not only do we create competitors and enemies, robbing ourselves of our happiness, but also the happiness of others.  Contentment is the key to peace and happiness in our hearts.

But how can we live a compassionate, honest and contented life?  If we rely only on our own strength, we will fail.  Humanly speaking, most of us are self-centered and discontented in life.  For this reason, we need to pray.  Yes, we need to pray for the grace of God to remove those obstacles in our lives that prevent us from being happy and at peace within ourselves.  What then should we pray for?

We must pray for the virtue of humility, which is the ultimate antidote to removing these blocks to happiness in our lives.  For good reason, therefore, St Paul urges us to pray with thanksgiving.   Unless, we are grateful to God, we cannot be open to others, we cannot be contented nor be generous with others.  Gratitude is a pre-requisite for compassion and generosity.

Why is humility so essential for us to overcome our unhappiness in life?  Only humility can make us compassionate, for we recognize whom we are and how much God has blessed us.   And because of what God has done for us in our poverty, we too begin to feel with and for others; especially when God had reached out to us in the first place through others.

Secondly, only humility can make us recognize our selfishness and our pride.  Very often we do not know the reason for our resentment against others.  We do not know why we are angry with them.  We find all kinds of excuses to justify our anger and unhappiness.  But quite often, when we examine deeper the reasons for our anger, it boils down to nothing else but pride and greed.  Being humble enables us to acknowledge the root of our problems and this prevents us from finding scapegoats to exonerate ourselves.

Thirdly, only humility can grant us the joy of contentment.  To be contented with what we already have is the secret to real happiness in life.  Contentment comes when we recognize that we are not deserving of what we have.  Instead of always thinking that we have not been paid enough or that we have not been given our rights, we must be grateful for all the blessings that we already have received.  Without the gift of contentment, we will always be hankering for more.  This will only increase our envy of others and bitterness in life.  Thus, when we are contented, we live an integral life and honest life.

But most of all, humility is the key to allowing the power of God to work in our lives.  When we are humble, we become more open to God’s grace.  Thus, when St Paul asks us to pray with thanksgiving, he is asking us to pray with faith that we have already received what we have prayed for. To pray with the expectation of our prayers being answered implies that we have surrendered ourselves to the Lord and we know that He will always grant us all that we need and is good for us.  And those petitions that He will not grant us, we consider them as not in accordance with His will because it will not bring us real happiness and joy.

Thus, when we have removed all these obstacles, the chaff of the wheat, as John would put it, then we will find the Lord is so near to us, in our midst and in our hearts.  Truly, like the Israelites who had been purified during their time of exile, we who are purified of our selfishness, guilt and greed will find the love and joy of God in us. His presence becomes real because we would have acquired His Spirit of love and compassion.

With the felt presence of God’s love in our hearts, we will naturally be freed from all anxiety. The anxieties and the ensuing fear in our lives will simply disappear by themselves because we live in trust in divine providence.  We will have the confidence that somehow the Lord is watching over us and protecting us.  With that confidence, we need not allow greed to dominate our lives.  Only trust in divine providence can truly free us from dishonesty, greed and selfishness, which are the fruits of fear of destruction.  With fear destroyed, now we will be able to love, to share and have compassion for others.

But above everything else, when we are filled with the Spirit of God, we will experience the peace of God in our hearts.  Yes, it is this peace within ourselves that will truly make us happy.  With peace in our hearts, we will look at others and this whole world with peace too.  Peace in our hearts empowers us to look at life, our sufferings and even our enemies differently.  We will no longer see them with hatred but with understanding, compassion and detachment.  That is why St Paul says that only the peace of God can guard our hearts and thoughts because we will be able to look at life with a horizon beyond ourselves.

Truly, with the presence of God within us, then we know that God is so near.  The more He is present to us, the nearer Christmas is for us.  This is because at Christmas we celebrate the Emmanuel, God with us, but not only with us but also in us.  So if we have not yet been purified of those chaffs in our lives, let us continue to pray with thanksgiving as Paul urges us so that by the time Christmas arrives, He would have been borne in our hearts once again; a birth that entails the giving of His Spirit peace, love and joy.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

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