Liturgical Bible Study Guide: 3rd Sunday (Gaudete) in Advent Cycle C

3rd Sunday of Advent
Christian Affirmations and Personalized Bible Scriptures

Introduction

For the past two weeks we have heard of the Lord’s coming as judge of all at the end of time. The Priest wears penitential purple during this season to help us realize our part in turning from God’s covenant and participating in acts of darkness (sin), although pink may be worn on this, Gaudete, Sunday. There are images of light and darkness interwoven throughout the season’s readings. The feeling of penitence comes as we force ourselves to compare our dreams, our great expectations, with reality. What keeps us from fulfillment in this moment? What hinders us from seeking the freedom that God offers us? Our fear of the unknown and our anxiety about taking risks often keeps us enslaved in our old ways and prevents us from reaching out for new ones. Our greed and possessiveness keep us from letting go of what we have so that we can seek the next step in life. God will free us from our enslavement to fear, injustice, poverty, negation, and disease if we simply let go and let Him guide us.

Gaudete Sunday, in the pre-conciliar delineation of the liturgical year, was regarded as a day of particular joy with Advent half over and Christmas soon to follow. The term Gaudete refers to the first word of the Introit (Entrance Antiphon) “Rejoice”, taken from Philippians 4:4-5.

[This week’s readings remind me of Alfred E. Newman, the funny-looking character on the cover of MAD Magazine, whose epithet was “What, me worry?” Alfred is cool, calm, without anxiety. The Philippians (our second reading), were they to have an epithet, would have one that reads, “Me worry? You bet!”

Why is it that the Philippians worry but the Alfred E. Newman types don’t? The Alfred E. Newmans don’t worry because they’re detached, aloof, cynical. They don’t like to get involved, to invest. To invest means to invest in the success of something – to want to see it work out right. Investment is a sure way to worry; after all, not every project succeeds. It’s a simple equation: no investment, no worry.

The Philippian types are the opposite of the Alfred E. Newman types. Philippians are big worriers. They are big worriers because they’re big investors – in pension programs, in their children, in life insurance. But, most of all, their biggest investment is in Judaism. As faithful Jews, Philippians are deeply invested in the coming of a Messiah – the one who will free Israel and rule the nations with peace and justice. As Luke describes them in today’s Gospel, “The people were full of anticipation, wondering in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah” (Luke 3:15). Philippians are so much on the lookout for a messiah that they almost mistakenly claim a desert hippie like John the Baptist as “The One!” But John keeps them back: “… there is one to come who is mightier than I. I am not fit to loosen his sandal strap” (Luke 3:16). If this isn’t anxiety – holy anxiety – then what is? I think the rest of us could stand a dose of it. For anxiety means that we seriously believe that a day will come when a Promised One will come and usher in God’s kingdom. In this case, a little anxiety is a good thing!] {taken from The Liturgical Press Sunday Bulletin for 3rd Sunday of Advent 1994}

Gospel – Luke 3:10-18

The story of John the Baptist is continued from last week. John gives directions to those who come to him and tells them that he is not the Messiah. He points beyond himself to Jesus, who is to come. In this reading we find that it is not the religious leaders who are willing to repent, but the ordinary Jewish people and those who, at best, are on the fringes of Jewish society: tax collectors and soldiers. These are the same people who respond positively to Jesus’ preaching.

1st Reading – Zephaniah 3:14-18a

This reading from the book of Baruch (which constitutes the entire fifth chapter) is similar to last week’s reading from Zechariah. All the valleys will be raised and the mountains lowered “so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God” (Baruch 5:7). This is powerful poetry that provides us with images of the perfect day of the Lord. The Lord will provide His people with a smooth highway leading them back to their own land from the Babylonian captivity.

2nd Reading – Philippians 4:4-7

Last week we heard from the beginning of the letter to the Philippians, today we move to the ending of this letter. Saint Paul concludes his letter with instructions for the people living in expectation of Christ’s coming.

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