FIRST READING (The Lord will rejoice over you with gladness.)
A reading from the Book of the Prophet Zephaniah (3:14-18a)
Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has removed the judgment against you; he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear. On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem: Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! 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. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM (Is 12:2-3, 4, 5-6)
R. Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel. (Is 12:6)
God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid. My strength and my courage is the Lord, and he has been my savior. With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation. (R)
Give thanks to the Lord, acclaim his name; among the nations make known his deeds, proclaim how exalted is his name. (R)
Sing praise to the Lord for his glorious achievement; let this be known throughout all the earth. Shout with exultation, O city of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel! (R)
SECOND READING (The Lord is near.)
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians (4:4-7)
Brothers and sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Is 61:1; Lk 4:18)
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has
anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. (R)
GOSPEL (What should we do?)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke (3:10-18)
The crowds asked John the Baptist, “What should we do?” He said to them in reply. “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”
Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fi re.” Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people. —The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
!” He was not writing from a hillside villa. He was writing to them from the darkness of his prison cell just outside the city walls. Both Zehpania and Paul write of a joy much deeper that “Christmas holiday cheer”. “Cheer” is created from our surroundings, from the decorations, the songs, and the bustle of crowds around us. BUT JOY emerges from within – from within each of us.
Looking around these days – taking our lead from the first two readings – we might wonder if the promises of Zephania and Paul are empty? Do we feel joy?
Although we do hear so much about joy in this season, is it how we really experience it? For many people, this is a season of the year that produces not joy but anxiety, friction, exhaustion and debt. More than in any recent years, the stress of dealing with children returning from studies overseas is now replaced by the emptiness of a home missing their voices and presence because they cannot travel. We can get caught up in a feeling of stress because of the preparations for Christmas that can get out of hand year to year are challenged by lack of goods, or worse, restrictions on gathering. We are surrounded by images of “the perfect Christmas” – the perfect tree, the perfect food, the perfect decorations, the perfect family gatherings, the perfect gifts, the perfect guests, and perfect harmony all around us. But – really – is Christmas ever truly PERFECT? The perfect Christmas somehow eludes most people every year, and perhaps more so this year.
That is why the message in our Gospel from John the Baptist deserves a closer look. Several groups of people question John about how to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. John tells the crowds to share what they have with others, the opposite of selfishness and greed. To tax collectors he tells them not to extort money from people, but to treat all fairly. To soldiers, he tells them not to abuse their power. In other words, to prepare the path for the Messiah the most effective means is to look inside ourselves, repent and make amends.
We can make John’s message our own. He calls us to fidelity in the daily circumstances of our life. Parents should cherish their children; spouses should be faithful and nourish their love; neighbours should seek ways to live in peace.
John presents to us an attitude of mind and heart that is needed in our world today, one that is not affected by cheer, but one that radiates joy from within.
How do WE prepare for the coming of the Lord? The joy of this Gaudete Sunday comes from appreciating the fact that our Christmas does not have to be picture-perfect to be truly Christmas. Christ can come to us in our imperfections. His Kingdom can begin to take root in our life today, this year. BUT, we need to prepare the way of the Lord, to clear for Him a straight path, and He will come. Whatever the limitations and challenges of life that we face, we are able to experience the joy of His presence.
The prophet Zephania reminds us that the Lord will come to renew us internally with his LOVE. That is a magnificent promise of spiritual renewal, spiritual rejuvenation whatever our age and condition. St. Paul reassures us, reminding us that “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” What a powerful spiritual security system – the very PEACE OF GOD is there within us, no matter what is happening around us. Or, to hear again John the Baptist, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” This is a fire that purifies and burns away what is superficial and phony, and releases the genuine, and ignites others – this is joy radiating from within.
For those who can, try to seek out an appointment with a priest for confession. Penance, helps us to spiritually clear a straight path for the Lord. With repentance, Jesus Christ becomes and remains an important part of our life.
In recent days, I have come across two messages in the web:
“Hatred corrodes the container it is carried in.”
“Joy is something to be shared!”
Repentance helps us to remove obstacles to Christ such as hatred, mistrust, resentment, and despair – so that we are not corrupted from within, and once that happens then JOY radiates in its place and is there to be shared.
Celebrant: The Father promised to send his Son into the world as our Saviour. As we prepare for his coming at Christmas, let us offer our prayers to the Father who gives bread to the hungry and sets prisoners free.
READER: That the Church may await the Lord’s coming with hope and courage, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That those who have closed their minds to the Good News may return to the community of the faithful in this Advent season, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That those who trust in the Lord may not lose heart, but be renewed in faith, no matter what they suffer, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That all people of all backgrounds will be welcome and supported by our generosity and care, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For the souls of the faithful departed, that they may come to the joy of eternal life with Christ , (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: And for the intentions we carry in our hearts, and for all those who have asked for our prayers and who we remember now in silence. (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: Most loving Father, hear the prayers of your people waiting in faith and hope for the coming of our Savior, whose splendor brings us everlasting joy. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. (all) AMEN.