Homily 3rd Sunday of Advent Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Zeph 3:14-18a; Isa 12:2-6; Phil 4:4-7 and Luke 3:10-18
The Lord will rejoice over us
Last week I went into Lens Crafters' shop near our school to pick up my glasses which I had ordered. As soon as I walked in one of the lady technicians called my name, ‘Michael” right away. I was very surprise and said to her “how did you know or remember my name so fast. She said “every body here knows the smiling face.”
Advent is not just a time to pray, or prepare to receive the Lord at Christmas. It is also a time we smile and rejoice over the wonders and blessings of the Lord, and his promises. It is a time we listen to the prophets, who carry this message of joy. They enable us relive the promises of ancient hopes. On the first Sunday, two weeks ago, Jeremiah addressed us with words of comfort, hope and consolation. Last week it was Baruch. This week Prophet Zephaniah stresses joy- the need to be happy. Zephaniah is a prophet of joy!
But first of all, what a funny name! No one in our community these days want to go by the name Zephaniah. Many of us prefer Michael, Grace, Angela, John. He is the 9th of the Twelve Minor prophets. His message is very important. The entire book is only 3 chapters and 53 verses. But his message is not a minor message but a major one.
In fact his name means “the Lord’s protects.” He preached many years, more than 100 years after Prophet Amos. His message was directed to Judah, Jerusalem and neighboring nations. His message is full with Advent’s meaning. It addresses us in particular and every nation in general. It touches men, women, children and peoples of all walks of life. It is about the “Day of the Lord.” It is a day of judgment. This day, Zephaniah says is near. It is fast approaching. It calls for actions- repentance, renewal, planting love were there is none.
Like in the case of today’s Gospel ( Luke 3:10-18) it calls for the type of questions the crowed and tax collectors put before John the Baptist, “what should we do” since this day is approaching?
John said, “stop collecting more than what is prescribed.,”…do not practice extortion, do not falsely accused someone and be satisfy with your wages.” Simply put we should avoid that which is bad and pursue goodness. We want to be opened to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, that love, peace and joy that he only Christ brings us at Christmas and the New Year to come.
This goes back to earlier prophecies of Zephaniah. For this late pre-exilic prophet God’s day is much more that judgment in a negative sense. It is not just negative or sorrow,sorrow. It is not sadness, sadness!! It is not fire, fire!! Or wrath, wrath!! But it is also a day of joy. We feel that joy when we abandon sin; and when we forgive. The Lord God like in the story of the Father in the narrative of the Prodigal son in Lukes’ gospel rejoices over us when we turn away from idolatry, when we turn to him. God is merciful, full of kindness. Our joy is His joy!
“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.
And Paul addresses same message to his Church in Philippi, “brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say again rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all,” (Phil 4:4-7).
As we prepare for Christmas we want to do it with joy. If you get a chance to go to confession, or reconcile with those who had offended you, do it, good! In fact you feel good and joyous after that. If you get an opportunity to reach out to the poor and the homeless, do it. It is a beautiful and joyous way also to prepare for Christmas. Cutting down our bad habits are also means of preparing of Christmas. These actions bring us joy. It brings us closer to God, who constantly rejoices over us, especially when we turn to him.