C Cycle – 3rd Sunday of Advent 21
They seem relentless, coming by mail, email, phone messages. Each one offering lower prices, better services and making it sound as if without their product I will be unprotected financially or medically. Yes, it is those unwanted robo calls, mailings and internet advertisements that find their annoying way to each of us. Every day they arrive, and we ignore them, delete them, and complain about them.
But what happens if we ignore God’s messengers to us?
After the fall of Adam and Eve, God set in motion a plan to restore us. To ensure his desire for us to be in his presence would be fulfilled God sent messengers to us. Those messengers encouraged us to remove the obstacles between us and God. One obstacle we need to remove is our response to sin. That tendency in us to choose sin rather than reject the temptation before it has a foothold on us. God’s answer to that obstacle was Jesus’ death and resurrection and the Holy Spirit who would change our hearts so we would always choose him over sin.
The role of the Spirit in our lives cannot be understated for it is the source of our holiness, our understanding, our changing desires, and our ability to grow in our knowledge of God’s heart.
It is our lack of understanding the nature of God that often keeps us from completely abandoning ourselves and allowing God into our lives. That lack of understanding causes us to do things for God while at the same time we ignore doing things with God. What does that mean? We go to church every Sunday and on days of obligation. We will attend spiritual events such as adoration, novenas, evening prayer, bible study, recite the rosary or use other means of meditation. We receive the sacrament of Reconciliation and Eucharist and try not to break God’s laws.
But do we ever sit with Jesus as Mary of Bethany did and just listen? Have we ever danced or sang with God as on a day of festival as the prophet Zephaniah tells us God wants to do with us?
We have a God who is not distant, sitting on a throne in the heavens somewhere. We have a God who desires to wrap his arms around us and embrace us, comfort us, and wipe away our tears. All too often we ignore or dismiss the very things God is using to grab our attention. Like those promotions we receive are disregarded because they are not an advantage over what we have now. John the Baptist in the gospel is telling us we are too dependent on meeting the minimum standard to please God. Jesus later will repeat that same message as he tells us much more is required than meeting the minimum standard of the law.
At the center of the prophet’s pronouncement and John’s description of what we must do is the difference between obedience to the law and surrender of our hearts to the father. Let me give you a vivid picture of the difference between doing what is required and surrender to the embrace of the Father. A few years ago, my wife and I visited our great granddaughter and her family in Cincinnati. She has two delightful daughters who are very much into imaginary games and very chatty.
We brought gifts for the girls, and I was watching the oldest, Esther, who was engaged in play with the things we gave her when suddenly she took my hand, looked me in the eye and asked if I would like to play with her. Of course, I said, and she took my hand and led me to another room. Her room with other toys and there we remained for the next hour and a half. Sitting on the floor, playing imaginary games with kitchen toys, stuffed animals, paper, and crayons. We talked, laughed and were in another world when her mom interrupted our play to announce lunch was ready. Esther and I were both disappointed.
God speaking to us through the Prophet Zephaniah tells us he will sing with us as on a day of festival. Just as I sat with Esther God desires to sit with us and allow us to encounter him. Not as a mighty God but as an intimate friend.
The psalmist tells us to dance before the Lord with timbrel and to make merry before the Lord. King David, danced before the Ark, completely abandoned himself and in the process making nis wife angry at his disgraceful behavior. We put too many restrictions on our outward behavior when we are in the presence of God. People will tell us there is a decorum which must be maintained, and we are taught to behave in a certain way before God. The atmosphere before God must be “sacred silence” not wild abandonment. Why then does God tell us his desire if for us to join in the merriment of knowing we are sanctified by his presence not by our demeanor.
Jesus began his ministry at a wedding feast; have you even considered why. A wedding feast where a large quantity of wine was consumed and the people were rejoicing, dancing, and laughing. That very merriment is seen in the Book of Revelation with all the heavenly host in song and all the elders praising God. My brothers and sisters, the gospel today tells us meeting the law is step one in our journey to become a people who know the father’s desire is not to watch us but to be with us. God wants us to respond to his invitation to stop trying to impress him and instead allow him to embrace us.