Saturday, December 12, 2015

Homily[2] 3rd Sunday of Advent Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily[2] 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

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.
Today,  the Prophet Zephaniah joyfully speaks to Us. 
He says,

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, 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 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. Some of you may have read this encyclical. However, Zephaniah, whose Hebrew name means, “the Lord protects” is the 9th of the 12th minor prophets and  a late-pre-exilic prophets, a contemporary of Jeremiah, who brought smiles, joy and hope to a community that was threatened with mourning, sadness and despair.
The particular text we read today, the last section of chapter 3, contains a language of hope and joy. Some scholars and spiritual authors have even suggested that it was actually written for Israel after the pains of exile. This text shows the Lord smiling, dancing, singing, rejoicing and admiring all of us, his remnant Church.  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. We have fought the good fight. We have endured in spite of temptations, illnesses, problems and betrayals. We have kept our marriages and vows in spite the “turbulence.”

As Zephaniah’s name would portray, 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 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 order words, Advent is a time we listen to the message of Zephaniah and know that the Lord our God is in our midst. Even though we are preparing for Christmas and meditating on the Parousia, the last judgment, during Advent, these two events dialectically are lived within the frame work of the present. . Christ is here with us, in the sacraments, in the Word, in our homes, work places, and in our neighbors. That is, of how we live today, how we relate with one another in fairness and justice.
 This is why in today’s Gospel (Luke 3:10-18), when John was 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!

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!