Third Sunday of Advent

 

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 “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.’  “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’

 

PRAYER FOR THE WEEK

Advent Prayer

Father in heaven, the day draws near when the glory of your Son will make radiant the night of the waiting world. May the lure of greed not impede us from the joy which moves the hearts of those who seek him. May the darkness not blind us to the vision of wisdom which fills the minds of those who find him. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.

 

COLLECT

O God, who see how your people

faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity,

enable us, we pray,

to attain the joys of so great a salvation

and to celebrate them always

with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reign with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

 

READING I

Zep 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

 

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

 

CCC 722 The Holy Spirit prepared Mary by his grace. It was fitting that the mother of him in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily”1 should herself be “full of grace.” She was, by sheer grace, conceived without sin as the most humble of creatures, the most capable of welcoming the inexpressible gift of the Almighty. It was quite correct for the angel Gabriel to greet her as the “Daughter of Zion”: “Rejoice.”2 It is the thanksgiving of the whole People of God, and thus of the Church, which Mary in her canticle3 lifts up to the Father in the Holy Spirit while carrying within her the eternal Son.

CCC 2676 This twofold movement of prayer to Mary has found a privileged expression in the Ave Maria:

Hail Mary [or Rejoice, Mary]: the greeting of the angel Gabriel opens this prayer. It is God himself who, through his angel as intermediary, greets Mary. Our prayer dares to take up this greeting to Mary with the regard God had for the lowliness of his humble servant and to exult in the joy he finds in her.4

Full of grace, the Lord is with thee: These two phrases of the angel’s greeting shed light on one another. Mary is full of grace because the Lord is with her. The grace with which she is filled is the presence of him who is the source of all grace. “Rejoice. .. O Daughter of Jerusalem. .. the Lord your God is in your midst.”5 Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the ark of the covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is “the dwelling of God. .. with men.”6 Full of grace, Mary is wholly given over to him who has come to dwell in her and whom she is about to give to the world.

Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. After the angel’s greeting, we make Elizabeth’s greeting our own. “Filled with the Holy Spirit,” Elizabeth is the first in the long succession of generations who have called Mary “blessed.”7 “Blessed is she who believed. .. ”8 Mary is “blessed among women” because she believed in the fulfillment of the Lord’s word. Abraham. because of his faith, became a blessing for all the nations of the earth.9 Mary, because of her faith, became the mother of believers, through whom all nations of the earth receive him who is God’s own blessing: Jesus, the “fruit of thy womb.”

1 Col 2:9.

2 Cf. Zeph 3:14; Zech 2:14.

3 Cf. Lk 1:46-55.

4 Cf. Lk 1:48; Zeph 3:17b.

5 Zeph 3:14,17a.

6 Rev 21:3.

7 Lk 1:41, 48.

8 Lk 1:45.

9 Cf. Gen 12:3.

 

APPLICATION

It is very probable that neither Zephaniah nor his hearers saw the full meaning of the consoling words he uttered and that matters not. But we see their full meaning now in their fulfillment and we have every reason to do what the prophet said: “to shout for joy.” God has come to dwell amongst us. He, Christ, is head of the new Israel, the Church. We are its members. “I am the vine, you are the branches” he said; while we remain united with him in grace and love we are producing fruit for eternal life, we are progressing daily towards our perfection.

The Israelites of old were indeed thankless and mean towards God, they forgot him and went after false Gods, and God resented this, and we would all say “how right he was”! But what about ourselves? We have seen proof of God’s love, exceedingly greater than anything the Israelites saw–his Son came amongst us–and actually died the most shameful and painful death for our sakes! Could we ever forget that? We can and we do, unfortunately. We too desert God and go after idols, false gods of our own making, the pleasures, the riches and the power of this passing world.

Let us stop and think today of our privileged status. We have been made adopted sons of God, brothers of Christ, who lowered himself to become one of us so that he would raise us up to become one with him forever. Would we swap our birthright of adopted son-ship of God for a mess of valueless pottage? Would we exchange an eternal happiness for some passing pleasure, some trivial material gain, some foolish sop to our false pride? This has been known to have happened, it can happen again. God forbid it should happen to me!

 

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Is 12:2-3, 4, 5-6.

Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

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.

Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;

among the nations make known his deeds,

proclaim how exalted is his name.

 Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

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!

Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

 

READING II

Phil 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.

 

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 2633 When we share in God’s saving love, we understand that every need can become the object of petition. Christ, who assumed all things in order to redeem all things, is glorified by what we ask the Father in his name.1 It is with this confidence that St. James and St. Paul exhort us to pray at all times.2

1 Cf. Jn 14:13.

2 Cf. Jas 1:5-8; Eph 5:20; Phil 4:6-7; Col 3:16-17; 1 Thess 5:17-18.

 

APPLICATION

St. Francis of Assisi tried in his daily life to follow Christ as closely as possible. He was one of the happiest and most joyful of men for this very reason. He was often ill, often hungry, often cold and often fatigued but he was never known to have been sad. He had taken this exhortation of St. Paul to his heart. Whenever he saw one of his early followers gloomy and sad–there were some evidently who were as yet only following from afar–he told him go to confession as he must be in mortal sin. There seemed no other true explanation for sadness in a true Christian’s life. Is there? We are really pilgrims, exiles on this earth, but every day we live is a day nearer to our true and lasting home which is heaven. Would an exile on his home-journey complain of the few hardships and discomforts he may meet with on his journey? Not if his heart is really set on coming home.

Troubles and trials there must be in every individual’s life, but of this we have been forewarned by our Savior himself–“if anyone will come after me let him take up his cross daily and follow me.” The crosses we meet are not impediments to our progress towards heaven but rather necessary aids on our journey. If accepted willingly they will keep us closer to our Leader who carried his cross to Calvary for our sake.

St. Paul tells us today to pray for all our needs, always with thanksgiving. Such prayers, especially if we stress the thanksgiving we owe God already for the wonderful gifts he has given us, will lighten the cross and even perhaps make us grasp it closely rather than want to cast it from us. We are very mean if we refuse to undergo a little suffering for God who did so much for us and suffered so much for us.

 

GOSPEL

Lk 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 fire.”

Exhorting them in many other ways,

he preached good news to the people.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 535 Jesus’ public life begins with his baptism by John in the Jordan.1 John preaches “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”.2 A crowd of sinners3 – tax collectors and soldiers, Pharisees and Sadducees, and prostitutes- come to be baptized by him. “Then Jesus appears.” The Baptist hesitates, but Jesus insists and receives baptism. Then the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes upon Jesus and a voice from heaven proclaims, “This is my beloved Son.”4 This is the manifestation (“Epiphany”) of Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Son of God.

CCC 696 Fire. While water signifies birth and the fruitfulness of life given in the Holy Spirit, fire symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit’s actions. The prayer of the prophet Elijah, who “arose like fire” and whose “word burned like a torch,” brought down fire from heaven on the sacrifice on Mount Carmel.5 This event was a “figure” of the fire of the Holy Spirit, who transforms what he touches. John the Baptist, who goes “before [the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elijah,” proclaims Christ as the one who “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”6 Jesus will say of the Spirit: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!”7 In the form of tongues “as of fire,” the Holy Spirit rests on the disciples on the morning of Pentecost and fills them with himself8 The spiritual tradition has retained this symbolism of fire as one of the most expressive images of the Holy Spirit’s actions.9 “Do not quench the Spirit.”10

CCC 2447 The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities.11 Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.12 Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God:13

He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none and he who has food must do likewise.14 But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you.15 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?16

1 Cf. Lk 3:23; Acts 1:22.

2 lK 3:3.

3 Cf. Lk 3:10-14; Mt 3:7; 21:32.

4 Mt 3:13-17.

5 Sir 48:1; cf. 1 Kings 18:38-39.

6 Lk 1:17; 3:16.

7 Lk 12:49.

8 Acts 2:3-4.

9 Cf. St. John of the Cross, The Living Flame of Love, in The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, tr. K. Kavanaugh, OCD, and O. Rodriguez, OCD (Washington DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1979), 577 ff.

10 1 Thess 5:1.

11 Cf. Isa 58:6-7; Heb 13:3.

12 Cf. Mt 25:31-46.

13 Cf. Tob 4:5-11; Sir 17:22; Mt 6:2-4.

14 Lk 3:11.

15 Lk 11:41.

16 Jas 2:15-16; cf. 1 Jn 3:17.

 

APPLICATION

The Baptist’s words are still very much to the point for all of us. We are all to a greater or lesser degree tax collectors and sinners. They had the honesty to admit it and asked John what they should do in order to be ready to welcome the Messiah, Christ. Let me ask today too what I should do if I mean to welcome Christ sincerely at Christmas. And the answer is in the words I have just heard. Am I just and charitable to my fellow-men? If I am an employer am I paying a just wage to those who are producing my wealth for me? If I am an employee am I doing an honest day’s work for the pay I am getting? And both employer and employee must in justice and charity think of the consumer–the third party, when fixing or causing the price of what they produce.

If the employer, through desire for excessive profit, or the employee through not earning his pay, cause prices to rise then the third party, the consumer, is treated unjustly. Our world today is full of such injustices and sad to say, the Christian countries whose citizens profess to be followers of Christ not only do nothing to prevent this state of affairs but instead are even worse offenders than those who have not yet heard of Christ. I may shrug my shoulders and say what can I do about the injustice that abounds on all sides? But stop and think, there are things I can do. I can put my own conscience in order. I can put myself right with God and neighbor by acting justly, “giving every man his due” from this day forward. I can thus become an example to lead others to do likewise.

The true Christian in the world is the leaven which will convert the dough into wholesome healthy bread. I can be, and I should be, that energizing leaven. If I will not and if I do not strive to become so, Christ’s winnowing-fan on my day of judgment will put me among the chaff which is destined for the unquenchable fire.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Franciscan Press.

 

BENEDICTUS

The Real Point of Christmas

Why do we really celebrate Christmas despite the wretchedness, turmoil, and isolation that are still man’s lot and are if anything intensifying rather than lessening? What is the real point of Christmas?… Is it not consoling to see how, despite all the misunderstandings, the message of Jesus of Nazareth is heard? It is not only conflict that the message has produced but also and even more the miracle of understanding, so that across ages and cultures, and even across the boundaries between religions, human beings find one another in his name. Distance vanishes and people are drawn together when this name is spoken… For Christmas says to us, amid all our doubts and bewilderment: God exists. Not as an infinitely distant power that can at best terrify us; not as being’s ultimate ground that is not conscious of itself. Rather he exists as One who can be concerned about us; he is such that everything we are and do lies open to his gaze. But that gaze is the gaze of Love. For anyone who accepts this in faith and knows it by faith, there is no longer any ultimate isolation. He is here. The light that one man became in history and for history is not an accident or something powerless, but Light from Light. The hope and encouragement that emanate from this light thus acquire a wholly new depth. But precisely because it is an entirely divine hope, we can and should accept it as also an entirely human hope and pass it on to others.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

 

CLOSING PRAYER

PRAYER TO OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE

By Pope John-Paul II In Mexico, January, 1979.

O Immaculate Virgin, Mother of the true God and Mother of the Church!, who from this place reveal your clemency and your pity to all those who ask for your protection, hear the prayer that we address to you with filial trust, and present it to your Son Jesus, our sole Redeemer.

Mother of Mercy, Teacher of hidden and silent sacrifice, to you, who come to meet us sinners, we dedicate on this day all our being and all our love. We also dedicate to you our life, our work, our joys, our infirmities and our sorrows. Grant peace, justice and prosperity to our peoples; for we entrust to your care all that we have and all that we are, our Lady and Mother. We wish to be entirely yours and to walk with you along the way of complete faithfulness to Jesus Christ in His Church; hold us always with your loving hand.

Virgin of Guadalupe, Mother of the Americas, we pray to you for all the Bishops, that they may lead the faithful along paths of intense Christian life, of love and humble service of God and souls. Contemplate this immense harvest, and intercede with the Lord that He may instill a hunger for holiness in the whole people of God, and grant abundant vocations of priests and religious, strong in the faith and zealous dispensers of God’s mysteries.

Grant to our homes the grace of loving and respecting life in its beginnings, with the same love with which you conceived in your womb the life of the Son of God. Blessed Virgin Mary, protect our families, so that they may always be united, and bless the upbringing of our children.

Our hope, look upon us with compassion, teach us to go continually to Jesus and, if we fall, help us to rise again, to return to Him, by means of the confession of our faults and sins in the Sacrament of Penance, which gives peace to the soul.

We beg you to grant us a great love for all the holy Sacraments, which are, as it were, the signs that your Son left us on earth.

Thus, Most Holy Mother, with the peace of God in our conscience, with our hearts free from evil and hatred, we will be able to bring to all true joy and true peace, which come to us from your son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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