3rd Sunday of Advent, Year C
DR. BRANT PITRE
Mass Readings Explained
It’s easy to imagine a situation where someone who might be a follower of Christ might try to make excuses for themselves. You know, I can’t help but engage in extortion, I’m part of this corrupt system of tax collectors; or I’m a soldier and so, you know, plunder is just part of what we do, this is just part of the habit of warfare. No, no. Ambrose [cf. Gospel of Luke, book 2, paragraph 77] is really clear here that every Christian, whatever state they’re in, none of us are exempted from obeying the commandments and from practicing charity and alms- giving. …During the season of Advent it can be easy to think about preparing for Christmas by setting up the Christmas lights, or going to Christmas parties, or, you know, going to mass or whatnot, but we don’t want to stop just at that, we also have to prepare ourselves morally and ethically.
SOURCE: Mass Readings Explained by Dr. Brant Pitre.
Navarre Bible, et alia
SOURCE: Bible study program at St. Charles Borromeo (Picayune, MS) courtesy of Military Archdiocese. Sources include The Jerome Biblical Commentary, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, and The Navarre Bible, and others.
The Sunday Website
DENNNIS HAMM, SJ
Advent is a preparation for the celebration of a gift that is, in great part, already realized. The Church punctuates this season with the joyful note of Gaudete Sunday
JOHN FOLEY, SJ
Are we finally getting a break from the somberness of Advent?
DR. ELEANOR STUMP
You can put your trust in God; but what happens when you know that God can put no trust in you?
RICHARD Niell Donavan
The Readings in Context
Richard Niell Donavan, a Disciples of Christ clergyman, published SermonWriter from 1997 until his death in 2020. His wife Dale has graciously kept his website online. A subscription is no longer required.
Please be patient
as page loads
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY
What Then Should We Do to Experience Christ’s Joy and Peace?
in preparation for the coming of the promised Davidic Messiah and God’s Day of Judgment. Three times we hear the same phrase: from ordinary people in the crowd, from tax-collectors ranked among the sinners, and from soldiers, asking John, “What then should we do” to prepare for this event?
In the First Reading, the Old Testament prophet Zephaniah announces the joy the people will experience when God comes to dwell among His covenant people. And in the Responsorial Psalm, we repeat the prophet Isaiah’s hymn of joy in the promise of God, “the Holy One of Israel,” coming to bring His people and the nations His gift of salvation. These are the prophecies St. John the Baptist was born to proclaim. Before his birth, the angel Gabriel told John’s father: “for he will be great in the sight of the Lord … to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” And John’s father, filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaimed at John’s circumcision and naming that God “has raised up a horn (a strength) for our salvation within the house of David, his servant, even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old” (see Lk 1:17b, 69-70).
Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
Dr. Kieran J. O’Mahony, OSA
MEDITATION: Why did thousands come out to hear John the Baptist? And what was so unusual about his message? Luke says that John “preached good news to the people” (Luke 3:17). John’s message of repentance was very practical…
FATHER EAMON TOBIN
FOCUS STATEMENT: Traditionally, the third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete (“Let us rejoice!”) Sunday, we are rejoicing because our salvation is near at hand. A spirit of joy pervades the first and second readings as well as the psalm. In the Gospel, John responds very concretely to people who ask him: “What must we do?”
FATHER CLEMENT THIBODEAU
Zephaniah: 3:14-18 The Lord is still among the people.
Philippians: 4:4-7 Paul is filled with joy because the Lord is near.
Luke: 3:10-18 The Baptist urges people to live rightly for the Lord is near.
Response: Isaiah 12:2-6 “Sing praise! The Great One is among you!
“Lectio divina,” a Latin term, means “divine reading” and describes a way of reading the Scriptures whereby we gradually let go of our own agenda and open ourselves to what God wants to say to us. In the 12th century, a Carthusian monk called Guigo, described the stages which he saw as essential to the practice of Lectio divina. There are various ways of practicing Lectio divina either individually or in groups but Guigo’s description remains fundamental. READ MORE
Bishop David G. O’Connell
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
St Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea is a unique work of scriptural commentary which nites the teachings of both early Latin and Eastern Church Father. It affords the reader a look into the deep meaning of the Gospels as understood throughout early Church history.
10. And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?
11. He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.
12. Then came also Publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do?
13. And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you.
14. And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) In the preceding words of John, it is plain that the hearts of his hearers were troubled, and sought for advice from him. As it is added, And they asked him, saying, &c.
ORIGEN. Three classes of men are introduced as enquiring of John concerning their salvation, one which the Scripture calls the multitude, another to which it gives the name of Publicans, and a third which is noticed by the appellation of soldiers.
THEOPHYLACT. Now to the Publicans and soldiers he gives a commandment to abstain from evil, but the multitudes, as not living in an evil condition, he commands to perform some good work, as it follows, He that hath two coats, let him give one.
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) Because a coat is more necessary for our use than a cloak, it belongs to the bringing forth of fruits worthy of repentance, that we should divide with our neighbours not only our superfluities but those which are absolutely necessary to us, as our coat, or the meat with which we support our bodies; and hence it follows, And he who has meat, let him do likewise.
BASIL. But we are hereby taught, that every thing we have over and above what is necessary to our daily support, we are bound to give to him who hath nothing for God’s sake, who hath given us liberally whatever we possess.
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) For because it was written in the law, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, he is proved to love his neighbour less than himself, who does not share with him in his distress, those things which are even necessary to himself. Therefore that precept is given of dividing with one’s neighbour the two coats, since if one is divided no one is clothed. But we must remark in this, of how much value are works of mercy, since of the works worthy of repentance these are enjoined before all others.
AMBROSE. For other commands of duty have reference only to individuals, mercy has a common application. It is therefore a common commandment to all, to contribute to him that has not. Mercy is the fulness of virtues, yet in mercy itself a proportion is observed to meet the capacities of man’s condition, in that each individual is not to deprive himself of all, but what he has to share it with the poor.
ORIGEN. But this place admits of a deeper meaning, for as we ought not to serve two masters, so neither to have two coats, lest one should be the clothing of the old man, the other of the new, but we ought to cast off the old man, and give to him who is naked. For one man has one coat, another has none at all, the strength therefore of the two is exactly contrary, and as it has been written that we should cast all our crimes to the bottom of the sea, so ought we to throw from us our vices and errors, and lay them upon him who has been the cause of them.
THEOPHYLACT. But some one has observed that the two coats are the spirit and letter of Scripture, but John advises him that hath these two to instruct the ignorant, and give him at least the letter.
BEDE. What great virtue there was in the discourse of the Baptist is manifested by this, that the Publicans, nay even the soldiers, he compelled to seek counsel of him concerning their salvation, as it follows, But the publicans came.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. in Matt. 24.) Great is the force of virtue that makes the rich seek the way of salvation from the poor, from him that hath nothing.
BEDE. He commands them therefore that they exact no more than what was presented to them, as it follows, And he said unto them, Do no more than what is appointed to you. But they are called publicans who collect the public taxes, or who are the farmers of the public revenue or public property? Those also who pursue the gain of this world by traffic are denoted by the same titles, all of whom, each in his own sphere, he equally forbids to practise deceit, that so by first keeping themselves from desiring other men’s goods, they might at length come to share their own with their neighbours. It follows, But the soldiers also asked him. In the justest manner he advises them not to seek gain by falsely accusing those whom they ought to benefit by their protection. Hence it follows, And he says unto them, Strike no one, (i. e. violently,) nor accuse any falsely, (i. e. by unjustly using arms,) and be content with your wages.
AMBROSE. Teaching thereby that wages were affixed to military duty, lest men seeking for gain should go about as robbers.
GREGORY NAZIANZEN. (Orat. 19.) For by wages he refers to the imperial pay, and the rewards assigned to distinguished actions.
AUGUSTINE. (cont. Faust. lib. xxii c. 74.) For he knew that soldiers, when they use their arms, are not homicides, but the ministers of the law; not the avengers of their own injuries, but the defenders of the public safety. Otherwise he might have answered, “Put away your arms, abandon warfare, strike no one, wound no one, destroy no one.” For what is it that is blamed in war? Is it that men die, who some time or other must die, that the conquerors might rule in peace? To blame this is the part of timid not religious men. The desire of injury, the cruelty of revenge, a savage and pitiless disposition, the fierceness of rebellion, the lust of power, and such like things are the evils which are justly blamed in wars, which generally for the sake of thereby bringing punishment upon the violence of those who resist, are undertaken and carried on by good men either by command of God or some lawful authority, when they find themselves in that order of things in which their very condition justly obliges them either to command such a thing themselves, or to obey when others command it.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. in Matt. 11.) But John’s desire when he spoke to the Publicans and soldiers, was to bring them over to a higher wisdom, for which as they were not fitted, he reveals to them commoner truths, lest if he put forward the higher they should pay no attention thereto, and be deprived of the others also.
15. And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not;
16. John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.
17. Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.
ORIGEN. It was meet that more deference should be paid to John than to other men, for he lived such as no other man. Wherefore indeed most rightly did they regard him with affection, only they kept not within due bounds; hence it is said, But while the people were expecting whether he were the Christ.
AMBROSE. Now what could be more absurd than that he who was fancied to be in another should not be believed in his own person? He whom they thought to have come by a woman, is not believed to have come by a virgin; while in fact the sign of the Divine coming was placed in the childbearing of a virgin, not of a woman.
ORIGEN. But love is dangerous when it is uncontrolled. For he who loves any one ought to consider the nature and causes of loving, and not to love more than the object deserves. For if he pass the due measure and bounds of love, both he who loves, and he who is loved, will be in sin.
GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Metaphrastes.) And hence John gloried not in the estimation in which all held him, nor in any way seemed to desire the deference of others, but embraced the lowest humility. Hence it follows, John answered.
BEDE. But how could he answer them who in secret thought that he was Christ, except it was that they not only thought, but also (as another Evangelist declares) sending Priests and Levites to him asked him whether he was the Christ or not?
AMBROSE. Or: John saw into the secrets of the heart; but let us remember by whose grace, for it is of the gift of God to reveal things to man, not of the virtue of man, which is assisted by the Divine blessing, rather than capable of perceiving by any natural power of its own. But quickly answering them, he proved that he was not the Christ, for his works were by visible operations. For as man is compounded of two natures, i. e. soul and body, the visible mystery is made holy by the visible, the invisible by the invisible; for by water the body is washed, by the Spirit the soul is cleansed of its stains. It is permitted to us also in the very water to have the sanctifying influence of the Deity breathed upon us. And therefore there was one baptism of repentance, another of grace. The latter was by both water and Spirit, the former by one only; the work of man is to bring forth repentance for his sin, it is the gift of God to pour in the grace of His mystery. Devoid therefore of all envy of Christ’s greatness, he declared not by word but by work that he was not the Christ. Hence it follows, There cometh after me one mightier than I. In those words, mightier than I, he makes no comparison, for there can be none between the Son of God and man, but because there are many mighty, no one is mightier but Christ. So far indeed was he from making comparison, that he adds, Whose shoes latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
AUGUSTINE. (de Cons. Evang. lib. ii. 12.) Matthew says, Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear. If therefore it is worth while to understand any difference in these expressions, we can only suppose that John said one at one time, another at another, or both together, To bear his shoes, and to loose the latchet of his shoes, so that though one Evangelist may have related this, the others that, yet all have related the truth. But if John intended no more when he spoke of the shoes of our Lord but His excellence and his own humility, whether he said loosing the latchet of the shoes, or bearing them, they have still kept the same sense who by the mention of shoes have in their own words expressed the same signification of humility.
AMBROSE. By the words, Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear, he shews that the grace of preaching the Gospel was conferred upon the Apostles, who were shod for the Gospel. (Eph. 6:15.) He seems however to say it, because John frequently represented the Jewish people.
GREGORY. (Hom. 7. in Evan.) But John denounces himself as unworthy to loose the latchet of Christ’s shoes: as if he openly said, I am not able to disclose the footsteps of my Redeemer, who do not presume unworthily to take unto myself the name of bridegroom, for it was an ancient custom thata when a man refused to take to wife her whom he ought, whoever should come to her betrothed by right of kin, was to loose his shoe. Or because shoes are made from the skins of dead animals, our Lord being made flesh appeared as it were with shoes, as taking upon Himself the carcase of our corruption. The latchet of the shoe is the connexion of the mystery. John therefore can not loose the latchet of the shoe, because neither is he able to fathom the mystery of the Incarnation, though he acknowledged it by the Spirit of prophecy.
CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) And having said that his own baptism was only with water, he next shews the excellence of that baptism which was brought by Christ, adding, He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and fire, signifying by the very metaphor which he uses the abundance of grace. For he says not, “He shall give you the Holy Spirit,” but He shall baptize you. And again, by the addition of fire, he shews the power of grace. And as Christ calls the grace of the Spirit, water, (John 4:14; 7:38.) meaning by water the purity resulting from it, and the abundant consolation which is brought to minds which are capable of receiving Him; so also John, by the word fire, expresses the fervour and uprightness of grace, as well as the consuming of sins.
BEDE. The Holy Spirit also may be understood by the word fire, for He kindles with love and enlightens with wisdom the hearts which He fills. Hence also the Apostles received the baptism of the Spirit in the appearance of fire. There are some who explain it, that now we are baptized with the Spirit, hereafter we shall be with fire, that as in truth we are now born again to the remission of our sins by water and the Spirit, so then we shall be cleansed from certain lighter sins by the baptism of purifying fire.
ORIGEN. And as John was waiting by the river Jordan for those who came to his baptism, and some he drove away, saying, Generation of vipers, but those who confessed their sins he received, so shall the Lord Jesus stand in the fiery stream with the flaming sword, that whoever after the close of this life desires to pass over to Paradise and needs purification, He may baptize him with this laver, and pass him over to paradise, but whoso has not the seal of the former baptisms, him He shall not baptize with the laver of fire.
BASIL. (lib. de Spir. Sanct. c. 12.) But because he says, He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, let no one admit that baptism to be valid in which the name of His Spirit only has been invoked, for we must ever keep undiminished that tradition which has been sealed to us in quickening grace. To add or take away ought thereof excludes from eternal life.
GREEK EXPOSITOR. (ubi sup.) By these words then, He shall baptize with the Holy Spirit, He signifies the abundance of His grace, the plenteousness of His mercy; but lest any should suppose that while to bestow abundantly is both in the power and will of the Creator, He will have no occasion to punish the disobedient, he adds, whose fan is in his hand, shewing that He is not only the rewarder of the righteous, but the avenger of them that speak lies. But the fan expresses the promptitude of His judgment. For not with the process of passing sentence on trial, but in an instant and without any interval he separates those that are to be condemned from the company of those that are to be saved.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (Chrys. in Thes. lib. ii. c. 4.) By the following words, And he shall thoroughly purge his floor, the Baptist signifies that the Church belongs to Christ as her Lord.
BEDE. For by the floor is represented the present Church, in which many are called but few are chosen. The purging of which floor is even now carried on individually, when every perverse offender is either cast out of the Church for his open sins, (by the hands of the Priesthood,) or for his secret sins is after death condemned by Divine judgment. And at the end of the world it will be accomplished universally, when the Son of Man shall send His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom every thing that has offended.
AMBROSE. By the sign of a fan then the Lord is declared to possess the power of discerning merits, since when the corn is winnowed in the threshing floor, the full cars are separated from the empty by the trial of the wind blowing them. Hence it follows, And he shall gather the wheat into his barn. By this comparison, the Lord shews that on the day of judgment He will discern the solid merits and fruits of virtue from the unfruitful lightness of empty boasting and vain deeds, about to place the men of more perfect righteousness in His heavenly mansion. For that is indeed the more perfect fruit which was thought worthy to be like to Him who fell as a grain of wheat, that He might bring forth fruit in abundance. (John 12:24.)
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. But the chaff signifies the trifling and empty, blown about and liable to be carried away by every blast of sin.
BASIL. (non occ.) But they are mixed up with those who are worthy of the kingdom of heaven, as the chaff with the wheat. This is not however from consideration of their love of God and their neighbour, nor from their spiritual gifts or temporal blessings.
ORIGEN. Or, because without the wind the wheat and chaff cannot be separated, therefore He has the fan in His hand, which shews some to be chaff, some wheat; for when you were as the light chaff; (i. e. unbelieving,) temptation shewed you to be what you knew not; but when you shall bravely endure temptation, the temptation will not make you faithful and enduring, but it will bring to light the virtue which was hid in you.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (non occ.) But it is well to know, that the treasures, which according to the promises are laid up for those who live honestly, are such as the words of man cannot express, as eye hath not seen, nor the ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive. And the punishments which await sinners bear no proportion to any of those things which now affect the senses. And although some of those punishments are called by our names, yet their difference is very great. For when you hear of fire, you are taught to understand something else from the expression which follows, that is not quenched, beyond what comes into the idea of other fire.
GREGORY. (Mor. 15. sup. Job 20.) The fire of hell is here wonderfully expressed, for our earthly fire is kept up by heaping wood upon it, and cannot live unless supplied with fuel, but on the contrary the fire of hell, though a bodily fire, and burning bodily the wicked who are put into it, is not kept up by wood, but once made remains unquenchable.