Adv3C18. Zephaniah 3:14-18a. “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad with all your heart!” “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness and renew you in his love.” The people of Judah at that time had for the most part abandoned the practice of the Torah and any faithfulness to the God of Israel. The prophet Zephaniah seeks to strengthen those who were still loyal to God by encouraging them to rejoice in the God who was still loyal to them.
Luke 3:10-18. In Luke 3:8a, John the Baptist says, “Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance.” He tells those who have more than enough, to share; to tax collectors, be fair; to soldiers, do not be unjust. Then John says that the Messiah is coming who will baptize them “with fire with the Holy Spirit and fire” and not just water as he does. The Holy Spirit is to bring repentance and holiness; the unquenchable fire, to cleanse the world of sinfulness.
Philippians 4:4-7. The Entrance Chant verse for this Sunday says: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.” Since the word ‘rejoice’ in Latin is ‘Gaudete’, this Sunday from the times Latin was the language used in the Mass has been called ‘Gaudete Sunday’. Where there is Jesus, as the Lord of one’s life, there is joy even in times of suffering. Paul goes on to write: “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.” When we live our lives out of the giving hand of God, then we have it all, we will never lack anything.
Responsorial Psalm from Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6. “Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.” “With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation.” The water that the Lord gives us at the fountain of salvation is a share in his holiness that entitles us to live with him in his household of heaven with his family, the saints.
Adv2C18. Baruch 5:1-9. The people of Israel were led into slavery by Babylonians, as a punishment for their gross unfaithfulness to God. God, ever faithful despite the lack of loyalty of his people, gathers his own back to him. “See your children gathered from the east and the west as the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God. Led away on foot by their enemies they left you: but God will bring then back to you.” He has made their way back easy: lowering “every lofty mountain,” bringing the gorges up “to level ground,” cooling their way with “every kind of fragrant tree,” “for God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory.”
Luke 3:1-6. Luke locates the work of John the Baptist in real time by listing the real people of those times because this was a genuine historical event: his proclamation of the Messiah. “The word of God came to John” because he was a prophet, even more than a prophet (Luke ). Then John roughly quotes Isaiah 40:3-4 and a bit more paraphrasing the ideas expressed in the rest of Isaiah 40. Luke builds on the Baruch and Isaiah to say that God is now freeing us from captivity to sin to once again be a blessed people of God. John proclaims a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin which is our Advent way to make straight the way of the Lord to our hearts.
Psalm 126. “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” This is what the Hebrews proclaimed when they, captives of Zion, were brought back by the Lord to Zion. We likewise proclaim the greatness of Lord toward us when we experience being brought back from sinfulness into the holy company of God.
Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11. “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (code words to mean when Jesus comes the second time.) “And this is my prayer: that your love may increase evermore,” “so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, (the Second Coming) filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.” Let us welcome the Messiah as sinners who have become saints through the work of the Spirit.
Adv1C18. Jeremiah 33: 14-16. The Lord God promises “to the house of Israel and Judah” that he “will raise up for David a just shoot.” In the Advent season we understand this to be applied to Jesus, who “shall do what is right and just in the land” by being the Messiah that will redeem the people.
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36. Here we go back to November’s theme of the Second Coming of Jesus with the terrifying signs of the end of the universe. “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” Then redemption is hand for those who have remained faithful to the Lord but destruction for those who were forgetful of Jesus and lost in worldliness.
Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14. As we live out our daily lives we must constantly lift our souls in prayer to the Lord so not to be lost in the lowliness of this world. A wonderful daily prayer is the first lines that have been given to us in today’s psalm: “Your ways, O Lord, make known to me: teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior.” It is so easy to get lost in ourselves, thinking that we have it all figured out and can do it on our own. The psalm says that the Lord will only teach “the humble his way” but ignore the proud who do not feel they need God. “The friendship of the Lord is with those who fear” or respect God for who he is in relation to us, the almighty, loving Father helping his children who need to be cared for daily.
1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2. “Brothers and sisters: May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming for our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.” As the God who created us to be loved by him, we should love one another, as he loves us all. We should love the love that God has for us and love his will which is the supreme expression of his love for us. In loving God’s will for us and acting in obedience to his will, we are made “blameless in holiness before our God and Father.” Loving God’s will for us means that we conduct ourselves in way that is pleasing to God
34BKing18. Daniel 7:13-17. Jesus uses this term ‘Son of man’ from the book of Daniel to refer to himself. I take it to be a practical way for Jesus to refer to himself as truly human, yet beyond the capacity of human perception, infinitely more than human. In this passage in Daniel, God, the Ancient One, makes the Son of man king receiving “dominion, glory, and kingship,” with “all peoples, nations, and languages” serving him. Unlike an ordinary human king, “his dominion is an everlasting dominion.”
John 18:33b-37. The religious leaders of the Jews felt greatly threatened by the popularity of Jesus and that Jesus had confronted them on their using religion as tool to serve themselves and not the faith of the people. They accused him before Pilate but it appears that Pilate could not get a handle on what the charges were that deserved such a furious upset against Jesus. Strangely enough he was trying to get Jesus to tell him what he had done. Jesus certainly did not appear to be the kind of person who was attempting to be king or military leader of anyone. Jesus answered Pilate, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.” “You say that I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” To Pilate that response made absolutely no sense. It is as if, we might say today, they were from two different planets or worlds. Truth for Pilate was holding down his job with the emperor. Truth for Jesus is the reality that is eternal, the Alpha and Omega, the same that always was, is now and always will be. Truth is the very person of God. Everything else lives for a short while and is dead the next. As Jesus said in John 14:6a, “I am the truth, the life and the way.” Everything else is fraudulent, falsely claiming to be the truth.
Revelation 1:5-8. “Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, who has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.” He is the shepherd king, leading us by the sacrifice of himself on the cross from our being sinners to becoming saints into his kingdom, to be “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.” (taken from Preface I of the Sundays in Ordinary Time) In Romans 6:5, Paul writes, “If, then we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” Daily we are priests, not as ministerial priests saying the words of consecration but as lay persons who offer up our lives with Jesus on his cross through prayer so that we may live with him in heaven forever.
33B18. Daniel 12:1-3. The book of Daniel predicts that “there shall be a time unsurpassed in distress.” The wise and “those who lead many to justice” will live shining “like stars forever” but “others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.”
Mark 13:24-32. I think that to begin to make sense of this reading one must go to and read the whole of Mark 13. Jesus refers to a whole number of things that will happen in the future, combining them in a sort of stew as one that might be cooking over a hot fire. In Mark 13:2 Jesus, in roughly 33 AD referring to the temple, says, “There will not be one stone left upon another that will not be thrown down.” In fact the Jews, rebelling against the Romans, go to war against them in 66-70 AD and lose. The Romans destroy the temple in 71 AD. In time Jesus says there will be many disastrous events that will occur, but for followers of Christ, “these are the beginnings of the labor pains.” Christians will be imprisoned but he says do not worry about how to respond. Jesus says in Mark 13:11c, “For it will not be you who are speaking but the Holy Spirit” who speaks through you. He continues in Mark 13:13: “You will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.”
Then Jesus says in Mark 14:14a, “When you see the desolating abomination standing where he should not” (Jesus does not say what or who this is, perhaps Satan himself), you must flee. In Mark 14:22-23, he continues: “False messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders in order to mislead, if that were possible, the elect. Be watchful! I have told it all to you beforehand.” In the next verse which begins our Sunday reading, Jesus says in effect the whole universe will disintegrate, “and then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out his angels and gather [his] elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.” In absolute contrast to his first coming as a helpless infant, Jesus, now in his second coming as the mighty King calling his own, his elect, who have been loyal to him to the end, up into heaven. Then Jesus seems to be at odds or variance with himself saying at first that he does know when these things will happen when he says, “this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place” and then saying he does not know when these things will take place, saying, “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the only the Father.” My own understanding is that when Jesus says that these things will come to pass before this generation passes away is that each generation must think that the end may come before they pass away so that they may always be watchful and alert. The term ‘elect’ is that Jesus chooses those who choose him.
Hebrews 10:11-14. Jesus “offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God; now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool. Jesus, being divine as well as human, only needed to offer one sacrifice. The Judaic priests who were simply human had to make many sacrifices. When we join ourselves to Jesus’ sacrifice, we are made perfect. He is God the Son who comes in power and glory.
32B18. 1 Kings 17:10-16. What a heart-wrenching account! “Just now I was collecting a couple of sticks, to go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die.” Elijah was able to bring the life–sustaining power of God to her aid, saying, “For the Lord, the God of Israel, says, ‘The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” The Lord provided in her dire need. In Luke 1:53, Mary says, “The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.”
Mark 12:38-44. Jesus calling his disciples to himself, saying, “This poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” God judges us individually on how much we do with how much we have. Judgment is based not on a competition, one against the other but rather on our own individual effort. When we are giving to God, we only give what God has given us. He knows well what we are capable of. God is perfectly just, true to himself as a Father loving each of us, his children fairly. He also condemns the scribes because they are only working for their self-interest and esteem. “They will receive a very severe condemnation.” This Sundays’ Psalm 146 says, “The fatherless and the widow he sustains, but the way of the wicked he thwarts.”
Hebrews 9:24-28. Christ, who died for our benefit on the cross, ascends to heaven to “appear before God on our behalf.” In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Infinitely superior to the priests of the Old Testament who had to offer sacrifices continuously, Christ offers himself only once on the cross to take away the sins of many. He will come “a second time, not to take away sins but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.” Christ suffered and died so that we may be his holy people, sinners made by the Lord into saints, prepared to enter heaven to adore him forever.
31B18. Deuteronomy 6:2-6. Moses gives the Hebrew Law or Torah to the Hebrews with its hundreds of commands and prohibitions. From my personal point of view this regime of training and discipline is like what a loving parent gives to their little children. In the New Testament this same loving God expects that his sons and daughters will have developed to point where He then only has to give only far fewer commands that are far broader in the scope in what they demand of us. The best example of this is Matthew 5:48 where Jesus simply says: “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” In the Old Testament Law, God promises that observance will lead to a long life and to “a land flowing with milk and honey” as a reward. I believe that observance of the Law in the proper spirit was given to the Hebrew people as the sure way to help them to grow in that all-consuming love of the Lord that is demanded by the first of the two great commandments.
Mark 12:28b-34. We always hear and read the command: “You shall love the Lord our God.” Unfortunately it can easily give the impression that love begins with us. 1 John 4:19 clearly states: “We love because he first loved us.” We go next to 1 John 4:9-10 which says, “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not we have loved God, but that he has loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” As we daily grow in the love that God has for us, we become more capable in turn, of loving God with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our strength. We cannot give what we do not have. The only way to have a genuine life of love is to get it as a gift from God himself. God is the ultimate source or root of all goodness. Jesus says in John 15:5: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”
Secondly, we cannot love what we do not properly respect. To respect God means to hold God in our hearts and minds for the person God truly is: all-knowing; all-powerful; all present; all-loving. However, we cannot truly and fully grasp who God is because he is infinite and we are finite. Because he is “the Lord our God” and we are not God, we must live in total submission to his Will. God is love; his Will is love. To live in anything else but a total submission to the Will of God is not to live in his love. In John 14:21 Jesus says: “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” In John 14:23, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” If God does not give us the love with which to love we can have no true love for God. To truly love God or neighbor means that God himself must live within us as the source of our life and love.
Hebrews 7:23-28. “Jesus, because he remains forever, has a priesthood that does not pass away. Therefore, he is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.” Jesus, “who has been made perfect forever,” is the perfect priest to appeal to God for us. In John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” Jesus who loved us so much that he died on the cross for us is the sure way to heaven for us. He is the sure way for us to live with our becoming love as he is love.
30B18. Jeremiah 31:7-9. “The Lord has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel.” “They departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them.” “For I am a father to Israel.” As the psalm response for Psalm 126 says, “The Lord had done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” For their disobedience Israel had been led off to captivity by the Babylonians. They had served their time in reparation. The God of Israel loves his People and with paternal care leads them back to their homeland.
Mark 10:46-52. Bartimaeus hears that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by but, probably because he has heard that Jesus has done miraculous things that only the Messiah could do, he calls out to him addressing him with the messianic title, son of David, instead of Jesus of Nazareth, which was his secular name. Bartimaeus, in crying out, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me,” is saying what we say at the beginning of Mass: ‘Jesus, have mercy; Christ, have mercy’. It was his way, and now our way, of requesting: ‘Make me physically whole; make me spiritually holy’ or ‘do great things for me’. As Jesus’ Father led Israel out of the dark times of slavery, Jesus leads a son of Israel out of the darkness of his blindness. When the disciples said to Bartimaeus, “‘Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you,’ he threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.” Traditionally Bartimaeus’ response to the invitation of Jesus is looked upon as his way of saying by his actions that he has abandoned seeking his strength from his own personal resources but is now totally dependent on, i.e. put his faith, in Jesus. Jesus told him, ‘Go your way; your ‘faith has saved you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.” As with the remnant of Israel in Jeremiah, the Lord has done great things for Bartimaeus and he follows the Lord with great joy. In the darkness of his blindness his faith opened him to be filled with the power of God. Our weaknesses invite us to no longer be dependent on our own resources but rather to put our faith in the strength of the Lord. Life is journey of having the sight to see Jesus leading us on the way to heaven and not be lost in the blindness of an earthly life.
Hebrews 5:1-6. Every high priest in the Old Testament was just a human being but chosen by God. Being human even the high priest “is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God.” Jesus too was called by God his Father to be the high priest. It was the Father who glorified the Jesus, saying to him: “You are my son: this day I have begotten you!” The God sets up the scenario for Jesus to be the high priest who opens up the gates of heaven by offering himself on the cross so that we may be delivered from captivity to sin to live in the promised land of heaven. Now we can say: “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.”
29B18. Isiah 53:10-11. Suffering for the sins of others because God wishes it of him, God’s servant will be rewarded abundantly.
Mark 10:35-45. The brothers, James and John, ask of Jesus that, when he comes into glory and power, they want to be closest to the center of power which would mean that the other ten would be in lower and lesser positions than they. Of course, the other ten became indignant on hearing the boldness of their request. Jesus denied their request saying that that was not his to give. However, much more important to Jesus was that seeking power over others was not his goal but rather serving others. “Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to first among you will be the slave of all.” God is love and he is the model of what we should be. Though all-powerful he did not impose himself on us because he wished us to be loving as he is loving. He created us with free will so that we could make the choice on our own be loving or to reject love. To be loving means that we must be lowly when to be lowly is what love requires as when Jesus chose to be a helpless infant; to suffer as when he suffered for us; to die as when he died for us. He made God’s almighty divine power subject to his desire to be loving rather than overwhelming us with might. For God love lords it over power and might, making power and might the servant of love. “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Paul writes in Philippians 2: 5-8: “Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, ‘Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found to be human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross’”
Hebrews 4:14-16. Jesus, always remaining God, nonetheless became human so to become the great high priest who offered up himself on the cross to redeem us from our sins. In his humanness Jesus came to “sympathize with our weaknesses,” being “tested in every way yet without sin.” As the song says, “We have a friend in Jesus.” We can live with confidence and without fear knowing that his infinite love for us drew him from the heavens so to be close to our side by embracing humanity into his very being. His humanity and his human life on this earth assures us that he can sympathize with us so to help us when we need it and be merciful to us.
Psalm 33. The last verses of this Sunday’s psalm say: “Our soul waits for the Lord who is our help and our shield. May your kindness, O Lord, be upon us who have put our hope in you.”