|Reading 1||Response||Reading 2||Gospel|
| Zep 3:14-18a
RCL: Zep 3:14-20
|Is 12:2-3, 4, 5-6||Phil 4:4-7|| Lk 3:10-18
RCL: Lk 3:7-18
|Liturgical note: Gaudete Sunday|
|The third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday. The Latin verb gaudete (gow-DAY-tay), which means “rejoice,” comes from the entrance antiphon for the day:
Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete.
The liturgical color for Advent is purple, a color that reminds us of our need for conversion and change. Gaudete Sunday’s liturgical color is rose, a color that represents joy during this season of waiting.
Gaudete! Rejoice! The Lord is near!
During the Advent season the Lectionary readings present prophecies and exhortations about the Lord’s coming. This week’s readings ask the believing community to once again prepare the way for Jesus’ incarnation.
The first reading from the prophet Zephaniah is the only time Zephaniah appears in the Lectionary reading cycle. The reading describes Israel’s restoration: after God’s judgement against the nations and Israel, God will again be present (“in your midst”) with God’s people. Christian hearers understand “God is in your midst” as referring to Jesus’ incarnation.
The second reading from Paul’s letter to the Philippi ekklesia continues last week’s teachings. Paul’s exhortation is about the parousia, but his words are also appropriate for the coming of Jesus at Christmas. He calls the Philippians to “rejoice” because “the Lord is near.” They should not be “anxious” about Jesus’ coming; rather, they should continue living as Paul taught them, in “kindness,” in “prayer and petition, with thanksgiving.” The Philippians, knowing they live righteously, should be filled with God’s peace. In the same way, as the believing community prepares for the incarnation celebration through metanoia, we should be filled with God’s peace.
Luke’s gospel continues from last week. John the Baptizer gives specific instructions about metanoia (change of mind/heart) and describes the coming anointed one (messiah).
- “What should we do?” The Baptizer’s injunctions restate the Hebrew prophets’ definition of true religion: justice and charity proved by actions.
- To the crowds, the Baptizer says, “Share what you have with those in need.” In the first century, a tunic or coat was not just clothing, but also shelter and a bed. Only a wealthy person owned more than two tunics, but John implies that even those who owned two tunics needed only one. From everyone the Baptizer demands metanoia proved by radical charity.
- To tax collectors, the Baptizer says, “Collect only your assigned share.” Tax collectors were universally hated, especially in Judea by religiously committed Jews, who viewed them as collaborators and sinners. The empire assessed taxes and regional tax-gatherers hired local agents to collect local taxes. If a local agent collected more than his assessed goal, he kept the difference. From those with financial authority, the Baptizer demands metanoia proved by justice.
- To soldiers, the Baptizer says, “Don’t extort, don’t blackmail; be satisfied with your pay.” In Jesus’ time, Rome did not have a legion permanently stationed in Palestine. These “soldiers” were probably Judean men serving as Herod Antipas’ military police. The Jewish people saw these soldiers as the most visible form of foreign occupation and influence. The soldiers’ position of power allowed them to shake down citizens and extort bribes to supplement their pay. For those with temporal authority, the Baptizer demands metanoia proved by charity and justice.
- A coming greater one. Like many Jews of the first century, the Baptizer may have expected a messiah who would be a powerful political or military leader. In any case, he understands that the messiah will come to judge everyone. His extended image of winnowing (separating the wheat and chaff), saving the wheat in barns, and burning the chaff in “unextinguishable fire” underlines his urgent call to metanoia.
The Gaudete Sunday readings call the believing community to continued preparation and metanoia, with a sense of joy: The Lord is near. Jesus has come in history and saved us. But as Paul and the Baptizer suggest, we still have work to do. Are we generous with those in need? Do we treat everyone fairly and honestly? Do we temper our authority with kindness and justice? Only then is our joy complete.