Daily Reflection
December 14th, 2003
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
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Daily Advent Prayer for this Day
The Third Sunday in Advent
Zephaniah 3:14-18
Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:10-18

So as to be more available to the Advent-graces of the readings, imagine John the Precursor seated at a table with a sign hanging above his head which reads, “Fidelity Employment Agency.” He has the reputation of being a prophet and announcing hard times for the unjust.

People from various occupations approach him for some instructions for how they can survive and prosper. To each he states clearly what the usual injustice is for their employment and urges them to refrain from these, because there is a “someone” coming who will invite them to true prosperity if they are ready.

We pray for the grace of a freedom from fears of our futures. This is “Rejoice Sunday” and fear suppresses joy. We pray with the confidence, literally “with-faith” that Jesus not only has come, but is always reaching towards us. We can pray for a good spirit of quiet joy as we prepare to celebrate his presence. As we move quickly through these days of preparing to celebrate the “Santa-side” of Christmas, we can pray for a “Ho-ho-holy” spirit of extending Christ’s love and peace.


The Entrance Antephon is the theme of this Third Sunday of Advent. The Lord is near and so there is cause to be joyful. The First Reading from the prophet Zephaniah, bursts with a joyful and consoling prophesy. As with Baruc and Jeremiah, from whom we have heard the past two Advent Sundays, Zephaniah foretells a reversal of God’s judgements. 

In the chapters before our reading, the Lord has spoken in anger and especially to the haughty city of Jerusalem. God has foretold the destruction of her beauty. What we now hear is a complete turn around. Jerusalem is seen as a beloved daughter and God’s being singing joyfully in her midst. The abandoned has become the embraced. The abandoner is now the one who takes great joy in the returned.

The Gospel is a continuation from last Sunday in which we see various classes of people asking John what they are to do in repentance. He tells them exactly where their chief temptation lies. Extortion, greed, possessiveness and lack of concern for the poor top the list of indictments. John is beginning to acquaint his hearers with the scalpel-like words of the “someone” who is coming.

Luke gives us a figure of Jesus as one who separates the substantial from the accidental. With a fan in his hand, the “One Who Is To Come” will blow away the chaff to be burned and the wheat he will gather together. There is some question about John’s being the “one,” but he states clearly that he knows his identity and role. He is preparing the hearts and minds for the fuller revelation of who God is and who belong to God’s people. When Jesus begins preaching they will not be shocked at what they hear; they had heard the Advertiser before him.    

In the spirit of these readings we might wonder whether or not God is pleased with us. It seems that sometimes God is, but mostly not. We have all grown up in that parental atmosphere. When we are doing good things, we assume that our parents were proud, pleased, delighted. When they found out that we were not fulfilling their rules and expectations, their faces, general body language needed no expression. They spoke those words with great articulation anyway.

I remember the twelfth birthday of one of my brothers. It was summer and all the relatives were sitting on our front porch awaiting his arrival. Dinner was ready, presents were ready and when he did arrive, he was in the grip of a Milwaukee policeman. My brother and his friend had thrown a firecracker in the window of an elderly lady’s house. Talk about ambiguity of feelings. We were not pleased, but we were not going to give up the birthday cake.

My parents and Irish grandparents especially, were not pleased with him, but the party went on accompanied by that great Irish way of avoiding the obvious issues. God is not a parent, nor is God Irish, thank God.

God is not pleased with us! Because of our upbringing, we can easily project that image on to God. We are loved beyond the ambiguity of our firecracking actions. God is not displeased either; we are loved and the dinner and cake are always set before us. 

The “rejoice” of today’s liturgy is the “rejoice” of our relationship initiated by a God who continues coming to bring light and life to us and through us into this world. We are freed from the ambiguity of whether or not we belong. John and Jesus after him offer us specific ways to live and love. Following these teachings does not please God, but rather will result in our being pleased with life.  Our joy flows from living in harmony with others which extends the “rejoice” into the community. John has told the tax agents, the soldiers and the well off what will please them and bring life to others. Jesus comes to extend such offerings so that we will be freed from the depressing ambiguity about what life means, what relations mean, and what each of us is to do on the earth he blesses.

“Say to the anxious- be strong and fear not, our God will come to save us.” Is. 35, 4
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