HOME Homily Archives - Year C Third Sunday of Advent, Year C

Third Sunday of Advent, Year C
Homily. Readings: Zephaniah 3:14-18a; Psalm: Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:10-18.

Purple Stole and Gospel
Readings: Zephaniah 3:14-18a; Psalm: Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:10-18

The liturgical texts of this Third Sunday of Advent are a hymn to joy: joy for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who will witness the departure of Assyrian domination and idolatry and will be able to worship Yahweh freely (First Reading). There is joy for Christians, a constant and overwhelming joy because the peace of God “...which is beyond our understanding will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus” (Second Reading). There is joy for God himself, who rejoices to be in the midst of his people to protect and save them (First Reading). And there is the joy John the Baptist communicates to the people by preaching the Good News of the saving Messiah, who with his coming will establish justice and peace among human beings (Gospel).

Why be joyful? We find several reasons in the liturgical texts. 1) First of all because God has repealed our condemnation. Zephaniah imagines Yahweh like the head of a tribunal who, after having dictated a sentence of condemnation, repeals it. How can one not be joyful? Historically, this refers to the heavy oppression that the Assyrian empire imposed on Judah’s kingdom at the time of King Josiah, from which Yahweh freed Judah’s people (First Reading). 2) Rejoice because Yahweh is in your midst. This divine presence of power and salvation frees from all fears and renews the kingdom of Judah with its love. It is a protecting and safe presence (First Reading). 3) Rejoice, because the Christian possesses the peace of God that goes beyond all understanding (Second Reading). This faith in God, the fruit of faith and baptism, is experienced in the liturgical celebration when we “tell God all our desires of every kind in prayer and petition full of gratitude” (Second Reading). 4) Finally, rejoice because John the Baptist, the forerunner, proclaims the Good News of Christ (Gospel) and, with him and like him, all the precursors of Christ in society and in the world. In light of all this, we can say that Christianity is the religion of joy. It is joy in the Lord, as St Paul reminds us.

Joy of the precursor. John the Baptist expresses his joy by means of three images. The first is that of the master and servant, with which he indicates Jesus’ superiority over himself. Jesus is like the master who, returning from a trip, has a servant at his disposal (John the Baptist) who unfastens the straps of his sandals. John is happy because the Messiah, his master, is about to arrive. He also uses the image of the farmer who when summer comes reaps wheat, threshes it and separates it from the chaff using the rake, keeping the wheat and burning the chaff. John’s joy is the joy of one who has reaped the fruit of his work, the fruit of many other prophets who with him prepared for the coming of the Messiah. Lastly, John rejoices because whereas he baptizes in water, the One who is about to come will baptize in the Holy Spirit and in fire. He will baptize in the Holy Spirit, the fire that purifies sin, the fire that drives on and spreads great undertakings. In baptism, the Christian receives the Spirit, and one of the Spirit’s first fruits is joy.

The Gospel of Joy. The Gospel of Joy is directed to all sorts of people: to people in general, to tax collectors, even to soldiers. This Gospel means giving to and loving one’s neighbor. Thus people are encouraged to share their clothes and food with the most needy. The tax collectors will live out fraternal love by levying taxes with accuracy and justice, without selfish additions for personal profit-making. As for the soldiers, they should be content with the salary they receive, and should not commit acts of extortion or persecute anyone on false grounds. In summary, the Gospel of Joy is planted and bears wonderful fruits wherever the commandment of love is lived out by each person, according to his profession and station in life.

Rejoice about the future, starting today. Zephaniah announces the liberation of Jerusalem and Judah, but it still has not occurred. However, the announcement itself should be cause for joy. John the Baptist is already rejoicing in thinking about the coming of the Messiah, although he has not made himself present yet. As Christians, let us live this period of Advent with joy, even though Christmas has not yet come. As Christians, let us be rooted in the present but with an eye to the future. This should always be the source of joy. There is an old refrain which says: “The past was always better.” This is certainly not true; nor is it Christian. The Christian, who is a person of hope, will respond, “The future will be better.” This will fill him with great joy. And the better future will not be the doing of men, but the mysterious and effective action of the Holy Spirit in history and in souls. The future will be better because the scientific moral progress of humanity contributes in some way to the Kingdom of God. And how can we help but rejoice about the future if we believe that all is in God’s hands, Lord of history and the one who has the keys to the future? Even in times of trial, the future smiles at the Christian mature in his faith.

Happiness and peace. Love, happiness and peace are gifts of the Holy Spirit. As gifts of the Holy Spirit, it would be a mistake to identify true love with the sentimental love of love affairs, to confuse joy with excitement and peace with the absence of war, destruction and death. The peace of God is something, St Paul tells us, which goes beyond all understanding. And the same goes for joy. As gifts of the Holy Spirit, only those who have received them through faith are able to experience, know, possess, enjoy and convey them. There is a certain reciprocity between the gifts of the Spirit. The peace that dwells in the heart of the believer inspires an attractive inner joy, which takes shape in our soul and “contaminates” others. The joy which the Spirit bestows upon the believer, in turn, conveys order and peace in life, serenity and harmony, and especially a sort of ataraxia, of spiritual serenity, which arouses everyone’s admiration. Why not ask the Holy Spirit to grant us these gifts of peace and joy more abundantly to prepare for Christmas? Let us rejoice in the Lord. Let us live the peace of God. Christmas is just around the corner.