Homily 3rd Sunday of Advent Year C: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
· Zeph 3:14-18a;
· Ps. Isa 12:2-6;
· Phil 4:4-7
· Luke 3:10-18
God Rejoices Over Us,
We are already in the 3rd week of Advent. So far we are so blessed with great Bible readings , homilies so far heard, and Advent models presented to us, including Israel’s prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Baruch, John the Baptist and our mother Mary- who bear not only messages of love, faith, and hope, but joy- that is reflected in the traditional name for today’s Sunday: Gaudate Sunday!
Toda’s scriptures speak of this Joy. First, the Prophet Zephaniah joyfully speaks to us:“
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.”
Second, Saint Paul addresses similar message to his Church in Philippi, saying, “Brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say again rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all,” (Phil 4:4-7).
These two passages, particularly, that of the Prophet Zephaniah is a delight of Pope Francis who even began his first Encyclical “the Joy of the Gospel” by quoting this joyful message Zephaniah, which lies at the heart of our faith. Some of you may have read this encyclical. But, if you not, please, do. Because, here, the Holy Father calls on everyone, though confronted with challenges, to live the Gospel, our faith, with joy- that is a spiritual joy that arises from our interior life- our relationship with God.
On the other hand, the text of Zephaniah we read today, the last section of chapter 3, contains a language of hope, comfort and joy to a community saddled with pains, sorrow and despair. Some scholars and spiritual authors have even suggested that it was actually written for Israel after the pains of exile. This text shows the exultant Lord smiling, dancing, singing, rejoicing and admiring all of us, his remnant Church, a renewed Israel.. If so, the question is why is the Lord smiling at us, at Israel, or rejoicing over us? It is because, we have kept the faith. We have persevered in faith and hope. We have fought the good fight. We have endured in spite of temptations, illnesses, problems and betrayals. We have kept our marriages and vows and Counsels, in spite the “turbulence.”
As Zephaniah’s name would portray, ‘the Lord’s protect, “we have allowed the Lord’s wings to cover us, to protect us, our families, our jobs, our travels, joys and sorrows, as an umbrella!
Even if you were to write out the Name “Zephaniah” in your palm, or on the back of your hymn book, or of bulletin, you cannot but appreciate the nine Advent gifts that this 9th of the twelfth Minor Prophets, Zephaniah, offers us through the 9 letters that make up his Hebrew name:
· • Z=Zeal for the Lord
· • E= Exemplary Living
· • P=Perseverance in my faith
· • H=Humility in service
· • A=Abiding presence of God
· • N=Newness of Life in Christ Jesus
· • I=Initiative in charity
· • A=Absolute trust in God
· • H= Hope and not despair
In other words, in addition to spiritual joy, repentance is important. How we live today, how we teach our children honesty, integrity, true values, how we treat our employers with fairness, how we reject corruption and abuse of power and public offices, how we love our nation and pursue common good, how reject violent and promote dialogue, how we relate with one another in fairness and justice is important. This is why in today’s Gospel (Luke 3:10-18), when John is asked by the crowd "what they must do," emphasize is placed on the need for those who have two coats to share one with their neighbor- and whoever has food is called upon to do likewise, those who have formed the habit of cheating, idolatry or extorting their neighbors are called upon to refrain from doing so- during Advent, but open to the baptism of the Holy Spirit- by also practicing that which Zephaniah stands for, peace and justice.
It is by doing so that the Lord rejoices in us .It is by doing so that the Lord Smiles, and sings over us as one would sing at festivals. May the Lord continue to bless, smile, and rejoice over us, as we prepare for his coming!
1. What is the source our joy, pleasure, human satisfaction or from our interior spiritual life emanating from our deeper relationship with God?
2. From insight drawn from today’s scriptures in what way or ways are we prepared to, repent, or change our old ways for better.
3. How do we help our next door neighbor to realize and cherish the challenging hope of Advent?