Fr. John Denburger, OCSO
3rd Sunday of Advent – Guadete (rejoice) Sunday
Zephaniah 3: 14 – 18a; Isaiah 12:Resp – Isaiah 12: 2 – 6; Phil 4: 4 – 7; Luke 3: 10 – 18
The Scriptures today call our attention to “presence” – that is, “being present to another”. The definition of “presence” is “immediate nearness” and in addition, the dictionary notes: presence is also “a supernatural influence felt to be nearby.” Unless I live as a total recluse, I live my life, more or less, being present to others and they to me. That presence can be nothing more than physical presence like standing in line at a check-out counter and it can be the most intimate presence as between husband and wife. And, of course, for us, people of faith, there is always God’s presence to us and ours to Him.
At this very moment we are physically present to one another in this church and more, we are spiritually present because we are witnessing to one another our belief in God and that, is no small thing.
The readings from the Prophet Zephaniah, from the Response taken from Isaiah and the passage from Philippians on this Gaudete Sunday – “Rejoice Sunday” – proclaim the reality of God’s presence and the Gospel teaches us how to respond to this presence, the Divine Presence in which we live, move and have our being.
Zephaniah gives Israel a message of reproach and of hope at a time when the old idolatries had reappeared – worship of sun, moon, stars – he calls them back by speaking of God’s faithfulness. His words ring out: “The Lord your God is in your midst. He will rejoice you, renew you…He will sing joyfully.” Did you ever think of God singing? Perhaps, God even dances – who knows? Why not!
Isaiah continues this truth; his words are strong in belief, clear as a bell: “God, indeed, is my Savior. I am unafraid for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is great in our midst – all through our lives, everywhere – there is no place without the Presence of the Holy Trinity.
St. Paul in Philippians reinforces this truth: “The Lord is near. Have no anxiety…the peace of God that surpasses understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
The presence of God, the immediate proximity of our God, is a now reality for us. Not only is the Lord present to us in the Most Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle radiating us with His merciful love; shortly, on our altar, the Lord, through the words of consecration, will become present in the bread and wine. And shortly afterwards, we will receive into out very persons, under the appearances of bread and wine, the Lord Himself. Such intimate divine Presence is beyond our comprehension but not beyond our faith and for each one of us, the Lord is not only in our midst but comes into our very person – we are extravagantly blessed, profoundly touched and embraced.
Like the crowds that approached John the Baptist asking, “What should we do?” How should you, I respond to this gift that exceeds all other gifts? John the Baptist’s admonition is very fitting for us: don’t be greedy, avaricious, share what you have; be honest, forthright in your dealings with others, don’t lie, don’t scheme; treat others as persons not things; be charitable, open your heart to others. Simply put, the Christ you and I receive, give that Christ to others. His coming into us is never to be selfishly hoarded. If that happens, then the meaning of the Holy Eucharist is distorted and its power is diminished.
Often today we hear of people being radicalized for evil, of men and women being transformed in their depths to inflict harm at the cost of their own lives. In receiving the Divine Presence, you and I are also being radicalized but for good and only for good; as sons and daughters of God we are being transformed in our depths to live lives worthy of our calling.
God is always present to us notwithstanding the fact that we are not always conscious of that Presence. But, today, on this “Rejoice Sunday” we can honestly, gratefully say, “The Lord in His love has been intimately present to me.” Today, let us give some thought to this awesome truth – it is too great to be treated as something ordinary and passing. It is infinitely worth our time and prayer, our reflection and of course, our prayer of gratitude.