Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Commentary for the 3rd Week of Advent by Sr. Susan Marie Lindstrom, OSB

Our readings this Sunday are filled with hope and rejoicing. Zephaniah assures the people that they have no further misfortune to fear. “Fear not. Be not discouraged ,” he says to a people beleaguered by strife, discord and upheaval. St Paul tells the Philippians to have no anxiety. Christ will bring them a peace that will guard their minds and hearts.

This week we are again with John the Baptist. The crowd has heard his message. Many of them have experienced his baptism of repentance. There is something stirring in their wearied hearts… a spark of hope that the Messiah will use to fan the flame of the Spirit’s fire within each of them.

What should we do? Somehow, in taking John’s message to heart, the crowd realizes that preparing for the Messiah means changing something within themselves. Accepting a Messiah is bound to change a person; the changes need to come from the inside out.

What should we do?
John makes no great demands on the people, nor does he impose rituals or prescribed prayers. Instead, he calls each person to live with a renewed sense of integrity. Tax collectors still collect taxes, but only the required amount; soldiers are still soldiers, but are not to misuse their power and position; all are called to mindfulness, to be aware of the needs of the people around them.

The people were filled with expectation and were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ… John’s call to repentance and his simple admonitions had touched the peoples’ hearts. Accepting a Messiah is not an intellectual task. It is a call to listen with the ear of our heart and to let what we hear penetrate every fiber of our being.

As Advent began, I asked each of my students to journal about the virtue that wanted to grow in during this Advent season. As I graded journals on Friday, I called each student to my desk and asked if they saw any growth in virtue. Without exception, all said yes. Many of them had big grins on their faces. Some were really excited and proud of themselves for their success. More than a few said that being mindful of what they wanted to work on actually increased their awareness of certain behaviors. What seemed impossible 2 weeks ago actually held promise for them now.

This 3rd Sunday of Advent is about mutual rejoicing… we rejoice in the promise of a Savior and, as the prophet Zephaniah reminds us, God will rejoice over us with gladness and renew us in God’s love.

What is stirring our hearts this advent season?
What spark within us does the Spirit desire to fan into a blazing fire?
As we prepare for Emmanuel to again be born in each of us, let us rejoice in the God who loves us and desires to dwell within us as individuals and as a community

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