Third Sunday of Lent – Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday

This 3rd Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday.  Gaudete Sunday is one where we’re called to rejoice. It’s a great reminder that each of us has much to rejoice about. In each of today’s readings, we’re invited to rejoice and to look forward to something good that is ahead for us.

First Reading – Zephaniah (3:14-18a)

The first reading this weekend is from the Prophet Zephaniah who asks us to drastically change our feelings from fear to joy and exultation.  Zephaniah says, “Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!”

Why?  “The Lord has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies.” We’re told to be glad because God comes not to judge, but to save and renew.

Even way back then, the Prophet Zephaniah was telling us that, “Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The Lord, Your God,  is in your midst, a mighty savior”. How is that for really good news!!!  Eliminate all fear (this is called faith). Why should we be confident in eliminating our fear?  Because God is absolutely in our midst. Zephaniah goes on to say, “he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love”. Try converting that into an affirmation such as, I am filled each and every day with confidence that God rejoices over me with gladness and renews me with his love!

The Holy Spirit dwells within us and the words of Jesus fill our minds with love, trust and joy.  Christians know that when we have the Holy Spirit with us always and Jesus’ words in our minds, Christ is in our midst living inside of us each and every day! With God dwelling within us, we invite Him into every situation we encounter each and every day.  There is no separating our actions from God.

Second Reading – Philippians (4:4-7)

As I prepare to bring you my thoughts each week, I highlight what I believe to be key words or sentences from each reading.  In this reading, I’ve highlighted every word with the exception of the greeting, Brothers and Sisters. This reading is short and sweet and every word should be savored and internalized so that you can genuinely rejoice in Paul’s words of confidence.

“Rejoice in the Lord always.” Can you imagine doing what Paul is asking us to do?  How great would we truly be if our faith were so strong that we didn’t question God but, instead rejoiced always? Maybe this is one of those short and sweet lines that you and I should meditate on to understand how to live this line on a  minute-by-minute basis?

Paul goes on to say, “Your kindness should be known to all.” Try reflecting on that line for a few minutes.  Is my kindness known by every one who knows me?  Well except for  _____ and ______ and _____, I think that I’m…….. I don’t think that Paul was looking for us to name exceptions when he used the word all. Here’s how I translate that line: Would the people who know me from my community – family, friends, church, gym, etc.- use the word kind when describing me.  If not, I still have significant work to do.

“The Lord is near.” I mentioned that when I talked about Zephaniah. Yes, the Lord is near!  He’s living in every cell of my body and providing me with “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding (who) will guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” How is that for a promise!  Do you believe it?  What would happen to your life if you did?

I’ve learned that there is a huge difference between listening to scripture, reading scripture and really trying to understand, internalize and live scripture.  In order to understand, learn it and live it, I’ve found that I need to take the time to make the connection between the words and how I’d be as a person if I really thought and acted in this fashion. When I make that transformation, I’m making progress on living a Christ-like life.

“Have no anxiety.” Are you kidding me?  No, Paul is not kidding us and he gives us a solution to our anxiety, “In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God”.   Couldn’t Paul please give me some more wiggle room?  He uses words like all and everything.   Why didn’t he use words like most and when you feel like it?  God and Paul have very high expectations for us and that’s a very good thing.  Humans tend to live up to the expectations that they set for themselves or to the expectations that are set for them by mentors whom they trust and love.  Do you see Jesus as a mentor whose words you believe and whose expectations you have the potential to fulfill???????  You and I have tremendous potential.  We just need to change our beliefs.  If I can’t believe God, who can I believe?

Gospel – Luke 3:10-18

In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist speaks to us with great clarity, “Share with the person who has none. Stop collecting more than what is prescribed. Do not falsely accuse”.

Points to meditate on:

How am I doing with John’s clearly spoken call to share with the person who has none?  Am I doing this? Can I be a more giving and sharing person?

Do I ever falsely accuse another? Do I repeat unkind words spoken about another?

John goes on to foretell the coming of Christ with his famous proclamation, “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”.

During advent, Christians can be doing many things:

  • We can prepare ourselves to celebrate the real spirit of Christmas with genuine joy – the birthday of Christ.
  • We can ask ourselves if we’re ready for His return?  If not, how can we become better prepared?
  • We can strive to rejoice in the Lord always.
  • We can remind ourselves that the love of Christ and the Holy Spirit has taken permanent residence within us and is there to guide and assist us at all times. We are never alone.
  • We can also look to the future when Christ returns to earth  with the anticipation and expectation of a child looking forward to Santa Claus.

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