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

by Shiu Lan
Third Sunday of Advent

Zephaniah 3:14-18A

Philippians 4:4-7

Luke 3:10-18

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.