Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!
Special Alert! In less than 4 weeks, at the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, this blog will have covered the full 3-year cycle of readings! Except for, of course, the weeks I have missed over the past few months as life got a bit crazy. However, I’m thrilled to have made it nearly all the way through years A, B and C. The exciting news is that you will see these posts sooner because I will be able to rely on posts that have already been written. I’ll adapt them a bit to be more timely, and voila. Away we’ll go! Truth? It has been a marathon and I never thought I’d get to the end. But alas, here we are, upon it…
Join us every week for background on this Sunday readings.
Our mission is simple:
We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)
Listen to this reading from the prophet Zephaniah, a “minor” prophet whose small book (just 3 chapters!) is almost entirely a warning of destruction and devastation. Until the very end. Check out the outline given at usccb.org (We’re in part 4 today):
- The Day of the Lord: Judgment on Judah (1:2–2:3)
- Judgment on the Nations (2:4–15)
- Jerusalem Reproached (3:1–7)
- The Nations Punished and Jerusalem Restored (3:8–20)
Zephaniah warned the people of Israel for 3 chapters, but at the end brings them hope. He calls them “daughter” and asks them to “sing joyfully.” He tells them to “fear not…be not discouraged!” The Lord is in their midst. And He is in ours today. He is in our midst through our trials, too. When all seems dark and gloomy, remember to think of that pink candle – light it in your heart and let it remind you to never lose hope, for the Lord is always in our midst!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you
he has turned away your enemies;
the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
he will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.
Responsorial Psalm: IS 12:2-3, 4, 5-6
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)
Hear the words of joy, strength and courage from the prophet Isaiah (we are not hearing from the actual book of Psalms today).
Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.
2nd Reading: PHIL 4:4-7
(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters. Speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).
Paul’s letter to the Philippians is often referred to “The Letter of JOY,” so it is no surprise that we find it here on the Sunday of JOY. Paul tells us to rejoice! The Lord is near. We’ve turned the corner, now halfway through Advent, and are headed toward the end of this watchful season. Nearing Christmas Day, let us rejoice in our hearts as Paul suggests.
Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all.
The Lord is near.
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.
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.
We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)
It helps to know that right before this reading, John the Baptist – who prepares The Way for Jesus’s coming – says to the crowds (John is about to baptize them), “Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” He circles back to this point at the end of the gospel reading:
The crowds ask John… “What should we do?” Listen as he foretells that Jesus is coming. He is trying to prepare them for the coming of the Son of God. The people are asking, What should we do to prepare?
And what about us, what are we doing to prepare? I know I’m busy getting things assembled – gifts, tables, have we watched Charlie Brown yet, what about Christmas cards? It’s so hard for us to carve out that extra time to just be still. And yet I am always glad I do when I do. So that’s my job this week! What’s yours? How are you preparing?
“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them,
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.”
Now the people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“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.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people.