One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

December 17, 2006

For the Third Sunday of Advent

Luke 3:10-18
Zephaniah 3:14-18
Philippians 4:4-7

The prophet Zephaniah, whom we heard in the first reading, Zephaniah foretold the same event whose arrival John the Baptist later announced and witnessed in person.
Zephaniah prophesied:
The Lord has removed the judgment against you.
The Lord, your God, is in your midst.
Fear not,
be not discouraged!
The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
He will renew you in his love.

In the second reading today, we have also heard the apostle Saint Paul speak in a similar way of the second coming of the Lord.
Rejoice in the Lord always!
I shall say it again.
The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all!
The peace of God will guard your hearts and minds.

Paul the apostle and Zephaniah the prophet announce that God’s presence, his saving might, his renovating love and his peace are standing guard over us.
This is true both as we prepare to commemorate his birthday at Christmas and as we strive to be ready for his second coming.
The Lord, your God, is near.

Rejoice in the Lord always!
I shall say it again: rejoice!

However, as we turn to hear what John the Baptist might say in the Gospel today about rejoicing in the nearness of God, we abruptly find ourselves confronted with accountability for the practice of ordinary charity and ordinary justice.
Saint John the Baptist has a message today that amounts to the following.
If you’ve got clothes and food,
then share some with those who don’t!
And, whatever your job is,
always do the right thing!

Then, John begins to unfold why we need to do good to the poor and do good at work.
Unfortunately, John starts to remind me of a seasonal song I hate.
“You better watch out! You-Know-Who is coming to town.”
John puts it somewhat this way.
If you’ve been good to the poor and good at work,
Christ who is coming will cover you with the Holy Spirit.
He will gather you like precious food into his heavenly treasury.
if you have ignored the poor and have done wrong at work,
Christ who is coming will baptize you with fire,
burning you up like empty husks.

“You better watch out! CHRIST THE LORD is coming to town.”
The paradox is that the Gospel says this message of John the Baptist was “GOOD NEWS to the people.”
Good news!
John’s puritan message brought joy to others and to himself.
Elsewhere in the Gospel [Jn. 3:28-30] John himself sums up what he is all about in this way.
I have been sent before the Christ.
He is the bridegroom.
I am his friend,
standing and hearing him,
rejoicing greatly at his voice.
My joy is now full.
He must stand out evermore,
and I must fade away.
My joy is now full.

John tells the people they better watch out and do good because John wants them ready and able to rejoice in Christ.
Joy— or happiness— follows upon charity and justice: integrity towards the poor and integrity on the job.
Christ is the great gift of happiness— the boundless and everlasting gift that brings fullness, fulfillment and peace to us.
We, like John the Baptist, need to prepare the way for the everlasting joy that Christ gives.
Here in the Eucharist, Christ himself fulfills the preparations that John taught the people.
Here in the Eucharist, Christ is the food of heaven shared in integrity with us who are poor because we are not yet in heaven.
Here in the Eucharist, Christ is at work for his Father, fulfilling his mission in integrity.
We make ourselves ready for Christmas, for the Eucharist and for the Second Coming simply by doing what is good and right.

That God Be Glorified in All


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