Sunday Readings & Reflections



Theme: The Gospel: a Proclamation of Joy

First Reading: Zephaniah 3:14-18a;
Responsorial Psalm: Isaiah 12:2-3.4bcde.5-6 (R. 6);
Second Reading:Philippians 4:4-7;
Gospel: Luke 3:10-18;
Resources used:
*The Sunday Missal, Paulines Publications Africa


First Reading (Zephaniah 3:14-18a)

The third Sunday of Advent is “Joyful Sunday.”
It is an invitation to joy and serenity: “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! … Be glad and exult with all your heart” (14), “Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged” (16).

Zephaniah is living during one of the most difficult periods in the history of Israel. Corruption is rampant in Jerusalem. The king, the priests, the prophets, and the judges are all corrupt; the people have abandoned their faith.
Zephaniah says, the day of reckoning is coming, “a day of distress and tribulation, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry” (Zep 1:15-16), and so on to the end of his book. But suddenly comes the prophecy we read today, an invitation to joy, to dance, to feast. Why this change?

It is because Jerusalem will not be punished. He will “renew you in his love” (17). She will again be as beautiful as a girl. She will be happy with her bridegroom who “will rejoice over you with gladness… will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals” (17-18).
God does not punish; people by acting in an evil way punish themselves. But the Lord does not abandon them. He is like a man in love with a girl: he is not put off by her refusals, and does not accept that he might lose her.

The prophet Zephaniah, who lived at a time when his people were so close to ruin, announces the victory of God’s love over sin, and the radical transformation of the social, political and religious situation which is the reason why he invites the poor of the country to rejoice.
When we see what is going on around us, we find more reasons to be sad than to make merry. Zephaniah’s words are addressed to us today and invites us not to give up because God’s love will prevail.

Second Reading (Philippians 4:4-7)

Paul writes to the Philippians from prison where he was put by his enemies, the enemies of the gospel. He should be downhearted, but he keeps inviting everyone to be full of joy.

“Even if I am poured out as a libation upon the sacrificial service of your faith,” he tells the Philippians, “I rejoice and share my joy with all of you. In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me” (Phil 2:17-18). Later he speaks of his apostolic plans and his wishes for others: “My brothers, rejoice in the Lord” (Phil 3:1). And finally the part we read today: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice” (4).

Why this insistence on joy? It is not because of any success in life, or good health, or having lots of money, or no worries (Paul and the Philippians had plenty to worry about, just as we have!), but the certainty that “the Lord is close at hand.” This is what we should have always in mind too to help us to be more gentle, kind and generous to all (5).

Our faith should give us the certainty that everything that happens is part of God’s plan, and that our lives will end in success.

Gospel (Luke 3:10-18)

The Baptist does not suggest anything specifically “religious,” does not invite them to practise some formal devotion or to attend a penitential ceremony (imposition of ashes, fast, prayers, spiritual retreat in the desert and the like). He demands something concrete and radical.

He tells them, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise” (11).
Isn’t this clear? Why replace with prayers and devotions the one thing that is indispensable, that is, the sharing of our goods with the needy? If the Messiah is to bring salvation to the world, the mountains (those who have too much) must fill the valleys (those who have too little). Where there is inequality, scandalous wealth next to misery, Jesus is not present. We must level things.

We might be willing to meet with others for prayers and singing, but when we are asked to share what we have with those less fortunate does our religious enthusiasm suddenly disappear?

The second group to come to John are publicans, who were tax collectors. How did they become so rich? They were expected to give their masters a certain amount of money. They forced people to pay even more, and pocketed the difference. The Baptist tells them not to exploit the poor.
Are we like them? If we have something that someone else badly needs, what do we do? Do we not sell it for as much as we can get?

The third group to come to the Baptist are soldiers. We might have expected John to tell them to abandon their occupation. John is tolerant. Jesus forbids violence of any kind. He will tell his disciple, “Offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well” (Mt 5:39). Soldiers’ pay at the time was very low. They used their weapons to exploit people, to mistreat girls and to extort money. The Baptist asks them not to mistreat anybody and to be “content with their pay.”

What can we learn from this? The soldiers stand for those who abuse their positions. Are we not like them when we take advantage of our position, profession or trade to lord it over others and oppress those who have nobody to defend them?

The joy of the Christian should not be confused with the laughter of the drunkard, with the satisfaction of one who gains the upper hand through violence, or with the pleasure of one who takes advantage of a weak and defenceless girl. There are many ways of merrymaking that are not Christian! The Baptist shows us the way to true joy.


Sunday Readings

First Reading Zephaniah 3:14-18a

“The Lord will exult over you with loud singing.”
A reading from the Book of the Prophet Zephaniah

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgements against you, he has cast out your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear evil no more. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Do not fear, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. The Lord your God is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival.”

The word of the Lord.
Isaiah 12:2-3.4bcde.5-6 (R. 6)

R. Shout, and sing for joy, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. R

R. Shout, and sing for joy, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

“Give thanks to the Lord, / call upon his name; make known his deeds among the nations, proclaim that his name is exalted.” R

R. Shout, and sing for joy, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

“Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” R.

R. Shout, and sing for joy, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Philippians 4:4-7

“The Lord is at hand.”
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians

Brethren: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The word of the Lord.

Alleluia. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; he has sent me to preach good news to the poor. Alleluia.
Luke 3:10-18

“What, then, shall we do?”
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke

At that time: The multitudes asked John, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptised, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than is appointed you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” As the people were in expectation, and all men questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ, John answered them all, “I baptise you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he preached good news to the people.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Sunday Reflections


*Adapted from: Celebrating the Word, Year C by Fernando Armellini— Paulines Publications Africa, Revised Edition 2007