What is our image of God? I am sure that for each of us, lots of different pictures may come into our minds. For many, the name ‘God’ conjures up thoughts of: “Watch out, I am keeping an eye on you?” Is it an eye of love, or an eye for judgment? In the first reading today from the Old Testament, we hear about a God who sings! A God who laughs, and a God of Dance! (Zephaniah 3:18)
It can come as a bit of a surprise to know that we have a joyfully singing God! I must say that when I was growing up, that notion never dawned on me; nobody talked about it, and I didn’t know much from the Scriptures either. Thanks to Fr.Robert Crotty CP, who taught us in our Formation House; he inspired us with his teaching of Scripture, his eyes would fill up, when he spoke to us about our God of the dance…. When you think about it, it’s really a powerful metaphor; one that captures God’s joy in being what God is good at being, a God who saves!
St. Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4), but today, we learn that it’s God who leads the way by doing it first with loud, joyful singing. God in fact delights in rescuing us from our fears, from our estrangement from each other, and in so doing; we have an experience of “salvation”. The words from Anne Murray’s Song: YOU NEEDED ME; can assist us in seeing the depth to which our God will go, to save us. She says: ‘You held my hand, when it was cold, when I was lost, you took me home, and you gave me hope, when I was at the end, and turned my lies back into truth again, You even called me friend…somehow you needed me.’ In this instance, the one who saves, in fact needs the one who is being saved!
Today is most certainly called: REJOICING SUNDAY! Or in Latin it is called: “Gaudete Sunday”, because there is a lot to be happy about, and that happiness can stay with us, live in us, and be contagious for others forever. This evening on Sydney Television, a lady won $100,000 in a Quiz show; she was over the moon with happiness, and so she should, but that kind of happiness is transient, it’s on the move, the money will eventually run out…..what will make this person happy again……win another $100,000; but we all know that generally won’t happen. That is not the kind of Joy or Rejoicing that we celebrate this Sunday, and deep down we all know that. However, it is beneficial for us to revisit the finer threads of God’s Word in the three Readings so that we can be renewed from within, so that the Advent invitation of Maranatha….Come, Lord Jesus, is refreshed, and refashioned in us, due to the evergreen invitations which are constantly within The Word, thus resulting in transforming responses, which mould us into the living image of Christ the Suffering Servant.
In the First Reading Zephaniah 3:14-18, it sounds like the Prophet is almost out of breath as he makes this pronouncement…It is more or less like a child-like expression of the real Wow factor! There is so much to say in a short time…..but look how it is promulgated? Many years ago, and for me it is almost Old Testament times when I was a young Seminarian in Melbourne Victoria, Australia, I remember that Carey Landry came on down to Australia for Liturgical Music Seminars. The Music that he put to some of these words from the first reading was a real blast! Some of you who are old enough will remember…….” And the Father will Dance!!!!!” it was fantastic for us because we were actually getting excited about these excitable Words…God’s Words. Why? ‘The Lord your God is in your midst!’ So we have nothing to fear! We certainly need to hear these Words again these days!
Let’s not forget similar words spoken by St. Teresa of Avila:-
Nade te turbe, nade te espante: quien a Dios tiene nada le falta.
Nada te turbe, nada te espante: solo Dios basta.
Let nothing trouble you, let nothing frighten you:
whoever has God lacks nothing.
Let nothing trouble you, let nothing frighten you:
God alone is enough.
The Responsory needs a mention; notice that it is not a Psalm? Isaiah 12:2-6 But it is written like a song of praise! The Stanzas of this Song give the community, reasons for their response. May I suggest that where possible we could do well to pause after the first reading so that our personal response may bubble to the surface, and then with one voice with the community we mystically gather all our responses into one response…in this case, CRY OUT WITH JOY AND GLADNESS: FOR AMONG YOU IS THE GREAT AND HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL. Says it for us as the Living Body of Christ.
In the Second Reading, St. Paul Philippians 4: 4-7 pastorally encourages the young Church at Philippi to be happy, because there is a very profound reason for being happy. It is a timeless prayer! We are besieged so often with reasons not to be happy…In fact the Television News each night is full of reasons not to be happy……yet, it sells and gathers ratings. Every now and then we might see an extraordinary act of kindness from someone who does not count the cost….and in our heart of hearts, we say to ourselves….”Isn’t that great!!!!” with a smile on our face. We are to be people of optimism!
It can be an ungainly habit to be a ‘knocker, as we say in Australia.’ That is someone who always looks for the negative side of any positive suggestion that is presented. Not only does that get on one’s nerves, as it does me, but these people are not generally happy and open folk. Here we see St. Paul with his tremendous understanding of human nature speaking about tolerance; the importance of praying with thanksgiving before one’s prayer is answered, and above all that true and unmistakable SHALOM ADONAI will guard and guide us. Why not take some time this week to spend just 10 mins away from Mobile Phones, Tablets, iPod and iPad, and anything else that has an i in front of it…to spend some ‘we time’, with the Lord, as you saunter down the Lanes of your Heart, with a sense of thanksgiving as you re discover the saving hand of God at work in your personal Gospel story.
Well, what are the words that God sings aloud in us? They are forgiveness, peace, love, gentleness, justice, integrity, and dignity. They are the fiery and cleansing Word of the Spirit that gives life, where there is none, destroys death wherever it reigns that strengthens weary hands, and gives victory to the oppressed. To each of us, this Word comes as freedom: the song to be shared with others, a song whose musical tones and harmony enable the best to come forth from each other. It is a song that enables people to feel “special”…it is a song that issues forth from us through our smiles, our words of genuine concern; it is a song that remembers those who may feel forgotten! We are never alone; as the Response to the Psalm says: ‘cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.’ (Isaiah 12:6)
In the Gospel story today Luke 3:10-18, the people in Our Lord’s time, in Luke and his communnitys’ time and our time, as the same question: WHAT MUST WE DO?
To conclude, I have something special for us…this little reflection…..someone gave it to me, but I don’t know who composed it. In the Gospel this Sunday, the question is asked of John the Baptist…’ What must we do?’ This reflection might help us in answering the question.
ADVENT GARDENING…What must we do!
(Live well with the produce of your garden.)
First, plant four rows of peas.
Next to them plant three rows of Squash.
Then plant lettuce.
Let us be truthful.
Let us be loyal.
Let us be faithful.
Let us love one another.
No garden is complete without turnips.
Turn up for the Sunday Eucharist.
Turn up for Community Reconciliation.
Turn up for ‘Prayer and Christmas Carols’
Turn up for Parish sharing & evaluation.
Turn up to celebrate with the community.
Turn up on time!
Turn off your Mobile ‘phone before you pray with
Your local Parish or Cathedral Community.