Zephaniah 3:14-18, Philippians 4:4-7, Luke 3:10-18
Today is the 3rd Sunday of advent. Today is known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means “rejoice”. Therefore, today is a day to rejoice.
Literally, to rejoice means to be exceedingly joyful. It is the joy that comes from the heart. In today’s liturgical celebration, the church asks her children to rejoice, for the coming of the Lord is near.
This call to rejoice comes amid the austere practices of the advent, the sacrifices, the prayers and fasting. It is a call that our sacrifices and longing for the Lord’s coming is not in vain.
To rejoice in the Lord is a call to be happy. It is a call to exercise our faith.It is an attitude of faith because we are to rejoice on what is yet to come.
Gaudete is a Latin word taken from the statement Gaudete in Domino Semper…! In St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians. St. Paul in the second reading says “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near”.
This call is a call of hope, expectation, love, faith and hunger to encounter the Lord.
When we rejoice over something that is coming, it means that there is something we are expecting. Then it means that, the thing that we expect is very important to us. It is a life of hope and a life of faith.
Paul’s letter to the Philippians in today’s second reading explains the true meaning of today’s celebration and the cause for us to rejoice. Paul writes to the Philippians “I repeat, what I want is your happiness. Let your tolerance be evident to everyone: the Lord is very near”
Therefore, the church is inviting us that it is time to rejoice because the coming of the Messiah is near. Therefore we have to rejoice because the cause of our salvation is already at hand.
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The Need to Rejoice In the Lord Always.
1. The opening verse of the book of the prophet Zephaniah states the time of the Prophecy of Zephaniah. Zephaniah states that it happened in the days of Josiah, the son of Amon king of Judah (Zephaniah 1:1).
This means that this prophecy was pre-exilic. Before Josiah became the king of Judah, the kings before him led the people into idol worship and they neglected the Lord, So, Josiah came as a reformer trying to bring things in place.
He cleansed the temple from all objects of pagan worship and restored the observance of the Passover (2 Kings 23:2–23). The book of 2 Kings 23:25, says of him that, “Before him, there was no king like him.
2. Zephaniah’s prophecy began with a warning and threatening words from God. God vows that He will sweep away everything and wipe them out from the face of the earth (Zephaniah 1:2-3). God showed his wrath against the people and vowed to raise His hand against Israel. (Zephaniah 1:4) especially those people who turned their back on Him( vs 6).
In these chapters, the day of the lord was depicted as the day of devastation, gloom, darkness and retribution (Zeph 1:14). Even in chapter three, God says that He shall get rid of the pride among them (Zeph 3:11).
3. So, the people have been struck on all sides by the threats of neighbouring countries, the increasing influence of the Assyrians and Babylonians and now the impending wrath of God. So, they were like people bondage in fear.
Then in the midst of these, there was a message of hope, a message of joy, a message to rejoice. God now tells them to rejoice exceedingly, which begins from today’s readings. First, He has repealed their sentence; driven their enemies away. He is now in their midst and they have no more evil to fear.
4. Then, the day of the Lord will no longer be a day of trouble but a time God will renew his love and then a time to dance with the people (Zephaniah 3:17). Therefore, it was a message of hope, a message of mercy, love and forgiveness.
The coming of the Lord will be a source of salvation to the people and not that of wrath. Therefore, today’s liturgy is asking us to rejoice because God has surely remembered us again. He is coming to show us His mercy and pardon. His coming will be a time of salvation and joy. There is always the need to rejoice.
Therefore, as the church asks us to rejoice even when Christmas is not already at hand but there is assurance that it will come to pass, it is also a way we shall rejoice in hope. Believing that God’s promise must surely come to pass. Therefore, we have to rejoice in the Lord always because God has not abandoned His people.
This Sunday of advent is a pointer that in the moment of prayers and sacrifices, there should also be an expectation that what we pray for will still come to pass. There should be this inner joy that should convince us that our expectations of the Lord’s coming are not in vain.
Rejoice in the Lord Always Despite the Circumstances.
The call to rejoice is not an assurance that we will be free from life challenges. But it is an assurance that despite the challenges, the power and grace of God will always prevail. It is joy despite the situations and circumstances that may surround us.
In the second reading, Paul writes to the Philippians telling them to rekindle their joy. He says “I want you to rejoice, rejoice in the Lord always; I repeat, what I want is that you rejoice. Let your tolerance be evident to everyone: because the Lord is very near.
2. Therefore, this is a reminder that there is hope. This is also a message of hope. It means that we have to rejoice in the Lord always because He has not abandoned us. He will still remember you when all hope is lost.
3. First I would like to remind us here that the letter to the Philippians is one of the four Prison Epistles. Paul wrote this letter in prison.
Paul wrote the epistle in AD 61 or 62, towards the end of his Roman imprisonment. He sent the other three Prison Epistles Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon through the hand of Tychicus, and the letter to the Philippians to be delivered by Epaphroditus, who visited Paul in Rome with financial help from the church at Philippi (Philippians 2:25; 4:18).
Therefore, Paul writes to them not to worry or be anxious. One then wonders the type of faith Paul has. The letter would have been full of regrets and sadness. It would have reflected the anger of someone who has been imprisoned because of the gospel.
He would have stated his disappointment to God for allowing Him to pass through such tribulation despite that He was working for Him and converting souls. This is what many of us would have done.
4. If we were Paul, we would have blamed and cursed God even. But none of those feelings reflected in that letter, rather Paul was even encouraging others who are not in prison to live in hope.
Therefore, the pointer here is that the call to rejoice is not an assurance that we are now free from problems and challenges but a call to be fully assured of God’s presence and grace despite the problems at hand.
5. In the letter, Paul asks them to rejoice always. It means that we have to be happy in the Lord both in good and in bad times. We have to be happy because, in every situation, He is still in control. Even when we do not understand what God is doing we have to keep our trust in Him firm.
There is no need to worry as Paul says but in everything we have to pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving. Then the peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard our hearts and our thoughts. We will experience inner peace despite the challenges at hand.
How to Create this Joy.
1. Before, the coming of Jesus, John the Baptist has been going through the whole area of Jordan calling people to prepare the way for the lord, bridging people to repentance( Luke 3:3-5).
This drew the people to Him because they were eager to encounter the long-awaited messiah. He warned them that the time has come when any tree that fails to produce fruit will be cut down (Luke 3:7). Then people began to ask Him what to do.
In essence, they were asking how to be part of this messianic encounter. In the same way, if we want to encounter Jesus, we have to show the hunger. Like the people who were asking John today which way, what to do? We have to show that we are ready.
We have to seek ways to have a close encounter with the Lord. Also, as the people responded to the message of John, we have to respond positively to the message of the gospel. We have to change and repent, free our hearts from guilt and be at peace with God.
2. When the people ask John what to do, John tells them, ‘If anyone has two tunics he must share with the man who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.’
Therefore, we have to create joy also in the life of others. We have to share what we have with those who have none.
We have to be a source of consolation in the life of others. As God is coming to bring change in our lives, we have to do the same to others. If everyone can live in love, then there will be heaven on earth.
3. Some soldiers asked him in their turn, ‘What about us? What must we do?’ He said to them, ‘No intimidation! No extortion! Be content with your pay!
Therefore, we do not have to be a source of suffering in the lives of people. We do not have to be the problem everyone wants to solve, Do not intimate others with your position or wealth.
In whatever we do, touching lives should be the guiding principle. Let us always live to bring smiles to people, let us always live to save and not to pull down. When we live to save , we bring a change.
4. Change can never come through killings and intimidation. It can never come when you trample on the rights of people.
Change comes when people work in unity. Change comes where there is love and understanding. We can never bring change when we fight against ourselves. Therefore, To create this joy, we have to make ourselves instruments of joy to the lives of people.
1. When we hear the word rejoice, one may ask the true reason for that. Of course, there is no need to rejoice. Every day, suffering keeps increasing. People are dying like animals.
There is increasing hunger in the land, of course, there is nothing to rejoice, Instead of things becoming better, it is becoming worse.
I think there are more reasons to become sad than to be happy. As Christmas is approaching, so many people cannot boast of feeding their families. How can we rejoice amid these problems and challenges?
The point is that when we are faced with the issues of life, there are temptations to become sad, worry and full of anxiety.
We have to note that challenges are part of life, Saint Paul in the second reading is a good example. Therefore, despite the problems, we have to rest our faith and hope in God. He alone is still the controller of all things.
Paul teaches us that despite the challenges at hand, we have to be happy in the Lord. Therefore, God should be the reason we have to be joyful always. Our hope is in Him both in good and in bad times.
2. Therefore to rejoice in the Lord, is to be happy believing that despite everything God is in total control. It is this inner conviction of the abiding presence and love of God amid calamities.
To rejoice in the Lord means that God is the source of our happiness. It is that joy that comes from the spirit. It means our joy is not based on circumstances. Problems and challenges will not tell us and will not tell us how to worship our God but in all things, God takes all glory.
An example of this also is in Daniel 3, when Shedrack, Meshach and Abednego were put in the fire, instead of becoming sad, worried and cursing God for allowing such to happen to them, they were singing praises even amid the fire.
Therefore, to rejoice in the Lord always means we have to be happy in season and out of season. We have to be happy even in those firing situations. Like Shedrack and his brothers, no circumstances should make us lose faith in God but rather bring us more close to God.
3. Today, the liturgy is also calling us to ask ourselves “what are we to do? What are we to do to change our lives? What can we do to cause joy in the life of our others? The people in John’s time came and were asking Him “what are we to do? So, we need to ask ourselves the same question.
What are we to do? What do we do, to be at peace with God again? How can we bring peace to our families and relationships? How can I make a family a home to live with? What can I do to keep my husband or wife happy? This question also applies even in our personal lives. What are to do to bring success? What can we do to make things work again?
4. Today;’s liturgy teaches us what it means to live in faith, hope and untiring love. The church asks us to rejoice when Christmas has not come, what if it didn’t come.
Therefore, this teaches us what it means to have faith. We have to be Like God’s children always living in confidence, hope and love that what God promises us will surely come to pass.
Therefore, always be joyful, rejoice in the Lord always. We have to live always in expectation of God’s intervention despite the seeming situation.
5. Therefore, we have to rejoice in the Lord always. Rejoice in the Lord always because he never fails, rejoice in the Lord always when things seem to be hard.
Even if it looks as if there is no hope, rejoice. Paul tells us in the second reading, “worry no more” rather seek everything through prayers and thanksgiving.
In essence, worry, anxiety, complaining etc, can never solve any problem, rather, let us use that time to seek divine intervention. May our hope rest in the Lord. Rejoice in the Lord Always!!
Happy Sunday and may God bless you. Amen