Worry not, “The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:5)

Third Sunday of Advent

Zephaniah 3:14-18A

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! 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.

Philippians 4:4-7

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.

Luke 3:10-18

The crowds asked John the Baptist, “What should we do?” He said to them in reply, “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.

Advent is often described as a time of joyful and hopeful waiting; a time of quiet introspection, In this third Sunday of Advent, we continue to await the joyful commemoration of the First Coming of God’s only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, at Christmas. More so, we are awaiting the second coming of our Lord in glory. When will this be? Only God the Father knows (Ref. Mk 13:32).

It, therefore, appears a little bewildering that St. Paul in the second reading would proclaim that “The Lord is near” when Christ himself assures us that not even the Son knows when he would come again (Philippians 4:5, Ref. Mk 13:32). St. Paul was probably referring to Christ’s near presence at all times, his Eucharistic presence and our ready access to him through prayer, promised in his parting words, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20, Ref. Ignatius Catholic Study Bible NT P. 60, 361).

St. Paul urges us not to worry about our problems; the doubts and disturbance that worry brings would invariably weaken our confidence in God’s fatherly care. He insists that if we pray about our problems, God would protect us from the torment of worrying; the Peace of God – the tranquility of heart and soul that comes from Christ – would prevail in us. (Ref. Philippians 4:7, ICSB NT P. 60, 361). When we share in God’s saving love, we understand that every need can become the object of petition. Christ, who assumed all things in order to redeem all things, is glorified by what we ask the Father in his name. With this confidence, the Church encourages us to pray at all times to seek Christ’s help and consolation (Ref. CCC 2633).

Not only are we not to worry about anything, St. Paul said that we must “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). He uses “Rejoice” twice to express emphasis on his advice. Though he was writing from prison, in the tone of his letter, is a spirit of gladness that radiates through the lines. He is a fine example for us that joy could flourish despite trying circumstances. Even those who are hated by the world because of their commitment to the righteousness of the Gospel, should remain joyful for they will be rewarded, “Blessed are you when they … persecute you …because of me, Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven” Jesus said (Mt 5:11-12, Ref. ICSB NT P15, 361).

In the Gospel reading, we hear John the Baptist’s advice on the question “What should we do?” so that those who heard and believed in the good news would be saved (Lk 3:10). His call for us is one of spiritual renewal, a return to social justice, honesty and generosity (Ref. ICSB NT P112). “What should we do?” is still a key question for us to ponder in the perspective of our unique circumstances in life so that when the time comes, we too, will be worthy of eternal joy in heaven.

Posted: December 12, 2021

Shiu Lan

Shiu Lan is your Catholic neighbour with a simple faith and likes praying the Rosary. With a B.Sc from the University of Hong Kong, she worked in Information Technology and Project Management before working with joy at home.

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