Bread In The Wilderness

Father Carl Diederichs

St. Luke/St. Lucy Churches

Thibodaux/Houma, LA

 

December 13, 2015 is the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete (Be Joyful) Sunday. The Entrance Antiphon is: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near. (Philippians 4: 4-5)

 

The Readings are: Zephaniah 3: 14-18a, Philippians 4: 4-7, and Luke 3: 10-18. The first two readings carry us along on a joyful note. And then the Gospel seems to withdraw it.

 

The Prophet Zephaniah was not a happy camper. In fact, the only positive paragraph of his short letter is the one we quote today. He is more inclined to speak about the “Day of Wrath.” But, we’ll take the joyful moment. Paul is very pastoral in his letter to the Philippians. In fact, the verses quoted today are among the most joyful and encouraging. Paul urges his hearers to “rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” And he then proclaims, “The Lord is near.”

 

Both of these readings exude joy and the nearness of the Lord. And for us, the great gift of the coming of the baby Jesus is at hand as we count down to Christmas Day.

 

Luke has us fast-forward thirty some years after the “Coming of the Lord.” At this point in the Gospel, Jesus is about to come out of obscurity and begin His public life. John is His herald. John has been preaching for sometime and has attracted quite a following. And his followers included all sorts of people; people with more than two coats, people who have more food than they can eat, tax collectors, and even soldiers.

 

John declared clearly that he was not the Christ, and he really wasn’t even worthy to tie Jesus’ sandal strap. But he was clear about how his followers were to act. It would also be the way Jesus expected His followers to act. And the way He expects us to act.

 

John stood with the poor and powerless. He admonished those with more clothes than they needed, to share. He urged those with more food than they could eat, to share. He spoke about social justice as he admonished the tax collectors not to abuse their power and steal from the people. And law enforcement officers were to be satisfied with their wages and to not accuse anyone falsely.

 

As we know, these words have a universal ring to them. They are as fresh today as when John first proclaimed them. I hope we are vulnerable enough to ask the question: “What shall we do?” and be willing to receive the answer. Jesus came to preach Good News, as did John. It is our calling to see that caring and sharing, recognizing our vocation to lift up the lowly and the poor, is our calling today. It might be trite to say that Jesus comes to us today to be born in our hearts so that we can faithfully fulfill John’s words. It might be trite, but true. If we do care for the poor and powerless and work for social justice for all and are engaged in the effort to bring mercy into our world, we will be able to proclaim from the depths of our hearts that the Lord is near.