3rd Sunday of Advent, Year C

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DR. BRANT PITRE

Mass Readings Explained

The corporal works of mercy, especially feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and the elderly, and giving to the poor, these are not optionals, these are essentials for preparing our hearts for the coming Messiah.

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.

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COMMENTARIES

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Africa Bible Commentary

Breaking Open the Lectionary – Year C

Catholic Bible Dictionary (Scott Hahn)

Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture

Ignatius Catholic Study Bible (Scott Hahn)

Life Recovery Bible

Little Rock Catholic Study Bible

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The Word of the Lord (John Bergsma)

Word Made Flesh (Christopher West)
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Catholic Commentary on Sunday Readings (PDF)

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

Tough Joy

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

Let It Sing

Are we finally getting a break from the somberness of Advent?


DR. ELEANOR STUMP

The Good News

You can put your trust in God; but what happens when you know that God can put no trust in you?

SOURCE: The Sunday Website at Saint Louis University: This website is a service of the Catholic Studies Centre at Saint Louis University, Matthew Baugh, SJ, Director; John Foley, SJ, Editor; Eleonore Stump, Coordinator; JC McCollum, Webmaster
RICHARD Niell Donavan

The Readings in Context

FIRST READING

Not Available

SECOND READING

The first word in chapter 4—the Greek word hoste (so that, so then, wherefore, therefore)—connects chapter 4 to chapter 3. In chapter 3, Paul spoke primarily about his own situation. In chapter 4, he begins to speak to the local Philippian church situation.

In chapter 3, Paul laid the following foundation:

• He regards the things that once seemed important to him as rubbish compared with the assurance of salvation that he now feels through his faith in Christ. Now his sole focus is knowing Christ and the power of Christ’s resurrection so that he might one day experience that resurrection himself (3:8-11).

• He doesn’t consider himself to have achieved the goal of “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (3:14), but he is pressing on toward that goal. He calls the Philippian Christians to “think this way” (3:15)—a phrase that he repeats in our Gospel lesson (4:2).

• He calls the Philippian Christians “brothers” or “brothers and sisters” (Greek: adelphoi) (3:17)—which he repeats in our Gospel lesson (4:1).

• He calls them to “be imitators together of me, and note those who walk this way, even as you have us for an example” (3:17) so that they might avoid emulating the “enemies of the cross of Christ” (3:18), whose “end is destruction” and whose “god is the belly” and whose “glory is in their shame”—because they “think about earthly things” (3:19).

• Unlike the “enemies of the cross of Christ” (3:18), “our citizenship is in heaven, from where we also wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (3:20).

• Paul holds to the promise that Jesus “will change the body of our humiliation to be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working by which he is able even to subject all things to himself” (3:21).

Having established that foundation, Paul says “THEREFORE!” (4:1). Our Gospel lesson for this week follows.

GOSPEL

Chapters 1-2 tell the birth stories of John the Baptist and Jesus, thought to be cousins because Luke says that Elizabeth was a relative of Mary (1:36). The stories of these births are interwoven, with the birth of John being foretold first (1:5-25) and the birth of Jesus being foretold next (1:26-38). Then follows the story of a visit by Mary, soon to be the mother of Jesus, to Elizabeth, soon to be the mother of John the Baptist (1:39-45). Even at that early stage, we learn of Jesus’ pre-eminence over John. Elizabeth, an elderly woman in a society that honors age, calls Mary, a young girl, “the mother of my Lord” (1:43). Elizabeth’s unborn baby, John, leaps for joy at the presence of the unborn Jesus (1:44). Then we hear of John’s birth (1:57-66) and the prophecy of John’s father, Zechariah (1:67-79), followed by the birth of Jesus (2:1-40).

Chapter 3 begins with a lengthy account of John’s proclamation of a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (3:1-20) and a brief account of Jesus’ baptism (3:21-22). The chapter concludes with the comment that Jesus “was about thirty years old” when he began to teach (3:23) and gives the lineage of Jesus through Joseph (3:24-38). Chapter 4 begins with the story of Jesus’ temptation, which begins his work (4:1-15).

As noted above, Luke has told us that John was “preaching the baptism of repentance for remission of sins” (3:3). Now we find three examples of his preaching (Fitzmyer, 464-466):

• The first example (vv. 7-9) has an eschatological emphasis, warning of potential judgment and calling the people to “bring forth…fruits worthy of repentance” (3:8).

• The second example (vv. 10-14) has an ethical emphasis that includes very specific ethical guidance to the crowds (vv. 10-11), tax collectors (vv. 12-13), and soldiers (v. 14).

• The third example (vv. 15-18) has a Christological emphasis, with John pointing to one who will baptize “in the Holy Spirit and fire” (v. 16).

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.

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AGAPE BIBLE STUDY

What Then Should We Do to Experience Christ’s Joy and Peace?

We are called during Advent to respond anew to St. John’s prophetic voice.

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.
FIRST READING

The Joy of God Among Us

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. 

Zephaniah is the ninth of the Minor Prophets. His ministry took place in Jerusalem during the reign of King Josiah (639-609 BC). The central theme of his prophetic book is Yahweh’s “Day of Judgment.” Despite his warnings concerning God’s divine judgment against an apostate covenant people, Zephaniah offered hope in an oracle telling the preservation of a faithful remnant of the covenant people who will be the core of a significant restoration (3:9-13). The promise of this glorious restoration becomes a hymn of jubilation in verses 14-18a.

Reading this passage should remind Christians of the Annunciation (Lk 1:26-38), when the angel Gabriel invited the Virgin Mary, a daughter of Zion, to rejoice and not fear because the Lord is with her (Lk 1:2028). In the Incarnation of the Word, the Lord God came to dwell among His people, and the salvation that Zephaniah promised became manifested in Mary’s son, the “mighty Savior,” the Son of God who has renewed us with His love poured out on the altar of the Cross.

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM

 Extolling God’s Mercy and His Glory

Response: “Cry out with joy and gladness for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.”

Our Responsorial Psalm is from a hymn of praise in Isaiah 12:1-6 that expresses the joy felt by all members of Israelite society..

Verse 1 begins with the words And, that day, referring to “that day” in the previous Isaiah passage in  Isaiah 11:10-12 when the prophet promised the coming of the Davidic heir and Redeemer-Messiah: That day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.  11 On that day, the Lord shall again take it in hand to reclaim [ransom] the remnant of his people that is left from Assyria and Egypt, Pathros, Ethiopia [Cush], and Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and the isles of the sea. 12 He shall raise a signal for the nations and gather the outcasts of Israel; the dispersed of Judah, he shall assemble from the four corners of the earth (underlining added for emphasis).

In Isaiah 11:10, the “dwelling” that “shall be glorious” is the Kingdom of the new David, the “root of Jesse” (Jesse was David’s father). That is the Kingdom of Jesus Christ into which He will “reclaim/ransom the remnant of His people” scattered across “the four corners of the earth.” The Church sees herself as this “holy remnant” that has experienced God’s salvation in the work of Jesus, the Davidic Messiah. As in Isaiah’s prophecy in Chapter 12, the Church feels called to bear witness to her joy before all humanity. Therefore, the Council of Vatican II declares: “all sons (and daughters) of the Church should have a lively awareness of their responsibility to the world; they should foster in themselves a truly catholic spirit; they should spend their forces in the work of evangelization.  And yet, let everyone know that their first and most important obligation for the spread of the Faith is this: to lead a profoundly Christian life” (Ad gentes, 36).

The canticle of praise in Isaiah 12:1-6 expresses joy for all parts of Israelite society:

  1. Verses 1-2 recounts the individual’s response to God’s redemptive works: the subject “You will say” (verse 1) is in the masculine singular.
  2. However, in verses 3-5, the focus changes.  The subject and verbs change to the plural as the entire community joins in praising God and in proclaiming the goodness of His works.
  3. In verse 6, the tense changes to the feminine singular, expressing the joy of God present among His covenant people, the Bride of Yahweh.(Encountering the Book of Isaiah, Bryan E. Beyer, page 91).

In verse 2, Isaiah describes the joy the redeemed sinner experiences because of God’s great work on his behalf that inspires both trust and gratitude. God was angry (verse 1), but now He has spent His anger and comforts His people. Because God is the source of salvation, every member of the covenant people knows they can trust Him and not fear Him if they are obedient to His commands. The line from verse 2 in a literal translation of the Hebrew reads: Behold, God is my salvation! I will trust and not be afraid, for my strength and my song is Yahweh (IBHE, vol. III, page 1635). It expresses the same joy in God’s works on their behalf as verse 2 from the “Song of Victory” that Moses and the Israelites sang after the miraculous crossing of the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea) when God delivered them from the Egyptians. The people sang: Yahweh is my strength and my song, to him I owe my salvation (Ex 15:1-18). In Isaiah’s hymn of praise, he recognized God’s continuing work of salvation for His people as a miracle like the parting of the Sea of Reeds/Red Sea in the Exodus liberation.

In verses 3-5, Isaiah changes the focus from the individual to the entire covenant community, offering praise to God for bringing them water from the springs of salvation as they Praise Yahweh, invoke his name. Proclaim his deeds to the people, repeats a verse from Psalm 105:1 that recounts God’s intervention in the history of Israel. The wording “water from the springs of salvation” is significant. For Israel, water came from the River Jordan, from many streams, from underground well-water, and the collection of rainwater in cisterns. However, the best, freshest water came from natural springs. In the hymn, the people compare the gift of God’s salvation to the freshest and purest water like the “living” or “flowing” water from natural springs. In verses 4-5, the covenant people are grateful for God’s works on their behalf.  They show their gratitude when they proclaim His marvelous deeds to their people and the nations of the world.

Jesus used the same imagery for salvation with a Samaritan woman drawing water from a well in John 4:4-14. He offered the woman “living water” and promised that whoever drank this water would never thirst again because the “water” Jesus gives is the water that “will become in him a spring of water, welling up for eternal life.”  In John 7:38-39, Jesus made a similar reference, identifying Himself as “streams of living water.”

6 Shout with exultation, O city of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel!
 In this verse, the tense suddenly changes to the feminine singular, and Zion, the symbolic word for the covenant people as a whole, is personified as a woman.  In the Old Testament, “Zion” is the Church, represented symbolically by the prophets as God’s virgin Bride. Perhaps this imagery is what accounts for the feminine singular in verse 6.

With the restoration of His people, God reestablished His relationship with Israel as His faithful Bride. He is one with His people in the covenant bond of faithfulness that the prophets compared to the covenant bond between a bridegroom and his bride in marriage. Jesus used this same symbolic imagery in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, referring to Himself as the “Bridegroom” (Mt 9:15; Lk 5:34-35). And, in the Book of Revelation, the climax of human history will occur at Jesus’s Second Coming when He brings His Bride, the Church, into the heavenly Jerusalem to celebrate the wedding supper of the Lamb and His Bride (Rev 19:6-9; 21:1-7). This is the climatic event we anticipate during the Season of Advent and for which we must prepare ourselves should our Bridegroom suddenly return during our lifetimes.

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
SECOND READING

Rejoice in the Lord

St. Paul admonished the Christians of Philippi (and us) to cast aside all fears and anxieties and to rejoice because the Lord is near. 

St. Paul’s message in this passage is even more impressive when we bear in mind that he wrote his letter to the Christians at Philippi during what was probably his first imprisonment in Rome, awaiting his trial in c. AD 61-63. When Paul mentions “anxiety” in verse 6, he is experiencing anxiety during this trying period in his life. But despite his current situation, he still urges the Christians of Philippi to have courage, rejoice in the Lord Jesus Christ, and offer up prayers of thanksgiving.

Paul’s point is to have joy in our relationship with God, and if we are enduring temporal suffering, it should not matter. Whatever our current situation, it is only temporary, and our eternal future should be the focus of our lives. The kind of joy that fills the Christian’s soul with peace does not come from the physical or material. It comes from a spirit of faithfulness generated by the knowledge that God is with us and has a plan for our lives. St. Cyprian wrote: “This is the difference between us and those who do not know God. They complain in adversity, but difficulties do not draw us away from virtue or from the true faith. On the contrary, our virtue and faith are reinforced in affliction” (De mortalitate, 13).

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
GOSPEL

The preaching of John the Baptist

John the Baptist was calling the people to prepare themselves for the coming of the promised Davidic Messiah. 

John the Baptist was preaching and giving a ritual baptism of repentance and spiritual purification to all who came to him on the east side of the Jordan River across from the city of Jericho (Jn 1:28). Two significant events in salvation history took place at this location on the east side of the Jordan River across from the west bank of Jericho:

  1. The Israelites made their last camp at the end of their 40-year wilderness journey out of Egypt on the east side of the Jordan River across from Jericho. At this location, Joshua (Yeshua/Yehoshua in Aramaic) led the children of Israel in the invasion of Canaan and the conquest of the Promised Land, crossing the Jordan River from east to west (Num 22:1; 30:12; Josh 3:1, 16).
  2. It was the site where God’s chariot of fire transported the prophet, Elijah, into Heaven (2 Kng 2:1-14).

This significant site was where St. John first began his ministry by offering a baptism of ritual cleansing for the repentance of sins. God blessed St. John with the power and spirit of the 8th-century BC prophet Elijah (Lk 1:17) before his birth. Therefore, it would have been fitting for John to begin his mission at the same site where Elijah’s mission ended and where the ministry of his more powerful successor started with the prophet Elisha (2 Kg 2:1, 4-14). It is also where John baptized Jesus (Yeshua/Yehoshua), the one more powerful than John. Jesus is the new Joshua (Joshua shared the same Hebrew name as Jesus). After Jesus’s baptism, like Joshua, He crossed over from the east to the west side of the Jordan River to begin His conquest. In Jesus’s victorious conquest against the consequences of sin and death, He would establish His Kingdom and fulfill the promise as the only one with the power to lead all who believe in Him into the true “Promised Land” of Heaven (Acts 4:12).

St. John’s preaching style was not gentle; today, he might be compared to a “fire and brimstone” preacher. In his discourse in Luke 3:8-18, St. John identified himself as the “prophetic voice” of Isaiah 40:3-5, whose mission was to tell the people to prepare for the coming of the Lord. He warned the people:

  1. Good works are evidence of true repentance.
  2. They must demonstrate acts of mercy and justice to save them from divine judgment.
  3. The coming of the Messiah and divine judgment is imminent.

10 And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?”

Three times in verses 10, 12, and 14, people in the crowd ask what they should do to demonstrate genuine repentance and avoid divine judgment.  The crowd included:

  1. ordinary Jewish men and women,
  2. tax collectors identified as sinners,
  3. and soldiers who are either Gentile Roman “God-fearers” who acknowledge the God of Israel and received instruction at the Temple but haven’t gone so far as to convert, or perhaps members of the Levitical guard. Levites guarded and kept order in the Temple and assisted the chief priests.
    St. John told the people that they needed to demonstrate their repentance by righteous living according to God’s Law and righteous deeds in treating men and women with mercy, respect, and justice.  See verses 10-14.

The link between demonstrating faith in God through works of mercy and righteousness that leads to salvation is a consistent teaching in the Church of the Old and New Testaments. For example, the prophet Jeremiah wrote: I, the LORD, alone probe the mind and test the heart, to reward everyone according to his ways, according to the merit of his deeds (Jer 17:10, NJB). The merit of one’s deeds counts toward one’s salvation, as the inspired writer of Sirach wrote: Water quenches a flaming fire, and alms atone for sins (Sir 3:29). In the New Testament, Jesus based the outcome of the Last Judgment on one’s earthly record of demonstrations of works of mercy (Mt 25:31-46). St. James wrote What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? (Jam 2:14) … See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone (Jam 2:24) … For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead (Jam 2:26). See CCC 1473 for the necessity of works of mercy and CCC 2447 for the significance and kinds of works of mercy.

15 Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.

John’s call for the people to demonstrate their repentance through a ritual of water purification and his warnings of divine judgment for those who oppressed the weak and disadvantaged recalled the Messianic prophecies in the books of the prophets.

16 John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

St. John denied that he was the Messiah, and he told the crowd that in contrast to his baptism with water, the Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. It was an event fulfilled on the Jewish feast of Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus’s Resurrection in Acts 2:1-14. And it was a fulfillment of the prophecy of the purifying and refining characteristics of the Messiah prophesied by the Old Testament prophets Ezekiel and Malachi:

  • I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols, I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees (Ez 36:25-28).
  • But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye. He will sit refining and purifying, and he will purify the sons of Levi, refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD… I will draw near to you for judgment, and I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, adulterers, and perjurers, those who defraud the hired man of his wages, against those who defraud widows and orphans; those who turn aside the stranger, and those who do not hear me, says the LORD of hosts (Mal 3:2-5).

St. John warned the people that the Messiah would bring about a final day of Judgment: 17 His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” This verse repeats the divine judgment promised in verse 9 in the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah but refers to His Second Advent. The threshing floor was a flat area where the people brought their harvested grain. A winnowing fan was a fork-like instrument used to separate the wheat kernels from the inedible chaff. The wheat grains were thrown into the air with the winnowing fork as a gentle breeze blew away the useless chaff, and the grain fell to the ground. The unwanted chaff was collected and destroyed by fire. The symbolic imagery of the winnowing fan, the threshing floor, and the burning of the unwanted chaff was a familiar Old and New Testament Biblical symbol of judgment in separating the righteous from the wicked and as an image of the final destruction (Job 21:17-18; Is 41:16; Jer 15:7; Wis 5:14, 23; Mt 3:12; 13:30, 40, 42, 50; Lk 3:17; Jn 15:6).

In the Old Testament, fire was often a symbol of purification that was more efficacious than water, signifying the divine transforming action of God’s Spirit in purifying the souls of men and women who still had the hope of salvation (see Sir 2:5; Is 1:25-28; 48:10; Zec 13:9 and Mal 3:2-3 and CCC 696). It is the way St. Paul wrote about God’s purifying fire in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, in which the souls of some of the saved must experience a necessary final purification in Purgatory (CCC 1030-32) and why St. Paul urged the Thessalonians not to “quench the Spirit” (1 Thes 5:19). However, a place where that which is defiled is forever consumed in flames and for which purification is no longer an option, as in John’s description, is rare in the Old Testament where both blessings and judgments are temporal (see Jdt 16:17; Ps 21:8-9; Sir 7:17/19; Is 66:24; Zep 1:18). It wasn’t until the coming of Jesus Christ, when both blessings and judgments became eternal, that we find divine judgment described as an unquenchable fire (CCC 1033-37). Jesus referred to this place/state of eternal punishment as Gehenna for those who do not die in a state of grace (Mt 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mk 9:43, 45, 47; Lk 10:15; 12:5; 16:23; also see Rev 14:10; 19:20; 20:10, 15; 21:8).

St. John uses the familiar imagery of the harvest to teach the people about the Messiah’s role as a Divine Judge. The threshing floor is the world, and the Messiah has the authority to judge and separate the righteous of the world from the wicked (Mt 13:36-43; 25:31-46).

18  Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people

In Luke 1:19, the angel Gabriel announced the “good news” (evangelizesthai) of the birth of St. John to his father, the priest Zechariah, and now John preaches the “good news” (using the same Greek word) of the coming of the Messiah and His kingdom. Our New Covenant obligation is to keep our souls in a state of grace in preparation for Christ’s Second Advent. The people in the crowd asked St. John: “What should we do?” The answer is to demonstrate love and mercy to a fallen world as we continue Jesus’s earthly ministry of good deeds. And we must share His Gospel message that eternal salvation through belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Those who join their lives to His will experience His joy and peace and the promise of a joyous reunion with Him in the Promised Land of Heaven.

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.

Dr. Kieran J. O’Mahony, OSA

Rejoice in the Lord, always!

Portable Commentary / Sunday Readings

EDRIANNE EZELL

Welcome the Day

Our Sunday Readings

VINCE CONTRERAS

“He will Baptize You with the Holy Spirit and with Fire”

Year C Archive

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

Small-Group Sharing / Reflection

Year C Archive

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

Echoing God’s Word

Year C Archive

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!

Carmelites

Lectio Divina Meditation

“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

English/Spanish Text

EARLY CHURCH FATHERS — SCRIPTURE SEARCH
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This Sunday’s Gospel references are highlighted in ORANGE. To further narrow results of the search, enter a specific verse in search box below. This tool can also be used to search for First Reading, Psalm, and Second Reading scripture references, if you like. 

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ST. THOMAS AQUINAS

Catena Aurea

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.

Luke 3:10-14

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.

COMMENTARY

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.

Luke 3:15-17

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.

COMMENTARY

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.

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000 Commentary in public domain.

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