Homily for the 3rd Sunday Of Advent Year C
Homily for the 3rd Sunday Of Advent Year C
The third Sunday of Advent, sometimes called Gaudete Sunday, is the first Sunday in this cycle of Advent that really begins our anticipation of the ‘joy’ of Christmas. Gaudete means ‘rejoice’ and certainly that it the mood of our First Readings today. In the last few weeks the readings have been centering on the crisis side of life, but with this first reading today, we are told two times not to ‘fear”. God will be with us, he will be in our midst, and we should not let anything discourage us. The final words of the First Reading are joyous and anticipatory: The savior who is to come “will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love.” This is what we look forward to, then, our renewal in the love of God with the birth of his son, our savior. And God is happy about all this as well. God wants us to be redeemed. God’s love for us has not diminished despite what we have done and do to him. In fact, the first reading says that God is singing joyfully because of us. He is pleased to send his Son, he is pleased at our redemption.
Our short second reading again stresses Gaudete – Rejoice! I shall say it again, rejoice! St. Paul also tells us not to fear, not to have anxiety because “The Lord is near!” And this Lord will bring a peace, God’s peace, which surpasses anything that we have ever known. So don’t be afraid to pray to God and ask him anything, but do it with thanks in your heart for you know he will hear you. Advent, unlike Lent, although at the altar we wear the same purple color, except for today, is not a sad season, but rather is a season of approaching joy. As we light more Advent candles each week, the light gets brighter and brighter until Jesus comes.
With the Gospel today, three times the question is asked: What are we to do? Such a good question, isn’t it? How many times have we been asking ourselves: What am I going to do? Christmas is 2 weeks away and I’m not ready for it – maybe all my gifts haven’t been purchased or wrapped, maybe my cards still haven’t been sent. What am I to do? Maybe I haven’t had the time to meditate on the advent themes to prepare myself for Christ’s coming. What am I to do? Maybe I don’t have time for my family because I am working and driving all the time. What am I to do? Maybe I have not been feeling well, or someone close to me is ill. What am I to do? Maybe there are difficulties cropping up in my relationship with my wife, husband or partner. What am I to do? Maybe people around us or we ourselves are suffering – from sickness, alcoholism, depression, addictions. What am I to do?
This is the same question that people were asking John the Baptist 2000 years ago. This is the human condition and that hasn’t changed. John provides some answers to their question, however. In the first half of the reading, Luke concentrates on the Baptist relating to many different groups of people. Remember, last week, we said one of the major themes in Luke will be the opening up of Christianity to all the nations. In this section three different groups of people all approach John with the question “What shall we do?” Besides being a prophet for the coming Messiah, John also preached and gave advise to his followers, so much so that they questioned whether he himself was the Messiah. The first group that come to him are the Jewish crowds which followed him, the second group were the loathed toll tax collectors, showing that he was willing to work with the outcast, and the third group were the soldiers who would have been Romans, showing that John worked with Gentiles. Luke is already preparing us for the ‘teaching to all nations”.
So what advice does Paul give to each of these groups when they ask the question “What should we do?” His answers are all about social justice. To the first group, the Jews, he recommends moving outside of oneself and sharing what one has. This has always been a predominate theme in all the Gospels – sharing food and clothing with the poor. As we just sang in the Gospel Acclamation: the Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. What should we do? In preparation for Christmas we have to forget ourselves and go out to others. We often do this in our culture, thank God. So many people do think of the poor and donate food or money to local charities or food banks. We adopt families and make sure that no child goes without a gift at Christmas. This forgetting of ourselves and our own problems can in itself bring us some peace.
The second group, the toll tax collectors also ask: What should we do? John’s answer is to stop collecting more than you should. People who worked for the toll collectors were often homeless people who could find no other work and so they would overcharge in order to put money into their own pockets. John says they should be honest in all their dealings with people and be satisfied with their commissions. They should think about what they are doing to others. Are we honest in all our dealings, in our relationships, in our businesses, in our homes? Peace comes with truth and honesty as well.
The third group, the Roman soldiers also asked: What should we do? These soldiers protected Herod Antipas who was representing Rome, the occupying power, and as such they were highly hated by the Jews. And yet, they too come to John for advice. Luke then presents them in a positive way, preparing us for the his theme of inclusion. And what advice does he give them? He asks them not to abuse their power, not to extort, not to falsely accuse anyone and not to try to get more money by taking from others. All of these things would be an abuse of the power entrusted to them. How do we handle our power at work and at home. Do we do things only to benefit ourselves, or are we aware of what we are doing to others? Do we treat those who we are responsible for fairly, and think of their needs, or do we think only of ours.
We should be able to easily identify with all three groups of questioners because the human condition has not changed in 2000 years. We still are selfish, we still are greedy and we still abuse power. Peace will not come if these conditions prevail – peace in our nation , peace in the world, or peace in ourselves.
Finally, we look at the last half of the second reading – the message of John the Baptist about the coming Messiah. This is the last question the people ask John – are you the Messiah, are you the one whom we waited for, are you the Christ? John’s answer was that there was someone coming who is so great that John was not worthy to tend to his feet. And if you remember, the Jews felt that even a slave should not have to tend to a person’s feet, it was such a low job. John uses an agricultural image which might not be familiar to us today: in order to separate the chaff from the grain kernels, the farmers would throw the wheat into the air and the chaff would be blown away and the grain would fall to the ground, being heavier. This sets up John’s message of repentance, of turning oneself around. The Messiah will be the wind fan that separates the wheat from the chaff and given the context, the wheat will be those who follow John’s advise – turning themselves around by being aware of social justice, being honest and using their power justly. Those that don’t do these things will be destroyed like the farmers destroy the chaff. But he doesn’t concentrate here on the chaff and destruction, but says he is giving us the good news. Our salvation is at hand. And this is what we celebrate today. Our messiah is coming, we need to cleanse and prepare ourselves by looking at our life, we need to be socially aware, and we need not be afraid to ask for help and thank our God.
And this is the Good News of what we should do today.
Fr. Ron Stephens, St.Andrew’s Church, Warrenton VA