A3C – 12 Dec 2021
Message by: Fr Richard M Healey
Advent 3, Year C
- Zephaniah 3:14-18.
- Philippians 4:4-7
- Luke 3:10-18
- Play MP3
If we read the first reading today without any kind of sense or understanding of the history or the background, we might think that the Prophet Zephaniah is just this naturally happy, bubbly kind of a person.
I mean, someone who is able to write such extraordinary, exuberant lines of joy and wonder.
This prayer of praise to God being prayed over the people in the city of Jerusalem is extraordinary, but it’s even more extreme in the context, it’s even more extraordinary in the light of the rest of this short prophetic book, Zephaniah wrote from the Southern Kingdom of Judah just before the time of exile, he wrote during the period of Josiah.
Josiah was one of the truly good kings among the 20 Southern kings of Judah.
He was one of the better ones in the Northern 20 Kings were all pretty much corrupt and could be written off in most of the Southern kings, but there were a number that were quite extraordinary and just saw even though he was very young, wanted to bring about this true reform to the people of God and he did his very best to bring about this new sense; this new experience of people returning to fidelity to God.
But the problem was the corruption that was present among the people who was so deep and so profound, that Josiah and his reforms weren’t able to truly change the people, and within a generation the the Kingdom of Babylon invaded, conquered the city, destroyed everything, and they lost their whole sense of who they were.
And Zephaniah is is well aware of this. The rest of his book is full of condemnations and attacks against the people, and against indeed the surrounding nations, telling them and reminding them of all of the ways that they have corrupted themselves, that they weren’t being faithful to God and to his message.
And so this beautiful song of joy that we get is our first reading today is even – as I said – more extraordinary in the context of these acts of really harsh and critical judgment against the city, we can see something similar happening in our second reading today.
As Paul is writing here to the church in Philippine and again, you might think, yeah, Paul must be in this really great place in his life to be able to write with such enthusiasm and such joy.
And yet as he begins his letter, he tells us that I write this in chains, in a period of house arrest, he’s under arrest for one of his, you know, many times when he experienced this sense of absolute deprivation, and yet he’s able to speak this word of joy and happiness that gives this Sunday it’s whole identity to rejoice in the Lord. To wish and desire this absolute sense of happiness.
Now both authors kind of point us in the direction of where can we find our joy?
Clearly it’s not just in the situation and the circumstances within which we find ourselves.
So often we kind of think of that this phenomenon psychologically and, and I know that I’m very much influenced by this.
You know today is bright and sunny like. Yes, the world is good; everything is the way it’s meant to be, and yesterday or probably this afternoon, given our current weather patterns, you know will be grey and gloomy and rainy and misty.
And and when I’m out walking, I’ll be like, oh, I should have brought an umbrella and then I’ll bring an umbrella and I get blown away. And all of that that joy and wonder is suddenly taken away.
So joy is not something that can happen, just in the light of the situation and the circumstance that we find ourselves. Joy says Zephaniah; Joy says Paul; Joy says even John the Baptist; and Joy certainly says Jesus is not just in the situation and the circumstance.
Zephaniah can point to this joy because he knows that God is good. He knows that even though the people of Judah are sinners, even though they have turned their backs on God, even though they have not been faithful. God is faithful, and God will always be faithful.
God will be true to his word because it’s a very essence of who God is and Paul, even though he can’t go about proclaiming the message even though he’s not able to see the people that he so dearly loves. Even though we have experienced periods during this year of such deprivation of being in isolation and locked down, all of those experiences can indeed, be profound moments which would point to sadness which would point to just all woe is me; how terrible is the world?
But if we understand this message of God, if we can see beyond the simple reality of where we are. To the truth of who God is and allow that relationship that we have with God to sustain us and hold us.
Then we can move more deeply into this experience of trust and hope and confidence because it’s not just based on what’s happening at the moment, not just based on my mood or what I’m feeling or what the weather is doing, but a much more profound and deep reality of being connected with the God of all creation.
So this first reading, I want to read part of it again, but this time I want you to hear this as if the Father himself is addressing this to you.
There’s a beautiful song, that Carey Landry wrote back in the 70s and down in Bega. We used to sing it occasionally and particularly in the youth group; there is a dance that goes with it.
I’m not gonna do any of that today or not even going to sing it over you, but there’s this truth that these words are meant to convey.
The Scriptures are not written to us as individuals, but they are written to us as the people of the Messiah.
They are written to us as people who belong to this covenant, family of God, and so it is absolutely true that the word of God is addressed to us to you as a people to you as a community too.
To us as we gather together.
And to know that even though there are all kinds of things that are happening, all kinds of deprivations that surround us all kinds of evil that we continue to face in the world, that the God of Israel is in our midst and the so it’s true that we have no more evil to fear.
So the Lord your God, the Lord, is in your midst.
He is a victorious warrior.
Let God exalt with joy over you.
May God Renew you by his love.
May God dance with shouts of joy for you, as on a day of festival.