3rd Sunday of Advent, Year C


Zephaniah 3:14-18a

YouTube player
Lector and trainer Lisa Bellecci-St. Romaine gives meaningful insights into the reading while conversing with the viewer throughout her proclamation. (View Archive)

Introduction to First Reading

Most of the short prophecy of Zephaniah is about gloom and doom for faithless, corrupt people and their leaders. But these encouraging words are for a faithful remnant among them. Note the interesting final image of the LORD singing joyfully because of the good people. —Greg Warnusz


The Larger Context

The book of Zephaniah (pronounced: zef uh NI uh) is four parts doom and violent gloom, and one part hope. Our reading today is from the hopeful finalé.

Zephaniah prophesied in Jerusalem during a time when many in that city were faithless and corrupt. Note how he rails against them in the first verses of Chapter 3:

    Woe to the city, rebellious and polluted, to the tyrannical city! She hears no voice, accepts no correction. In the Lord she has not trusted, to her God she has not drawn near. Her princes in her midst are roaring lions. Her judges are wolves of the night that had no bones to gnaw by morning. Her prophets are insolent, treacherous men. Her priests profane what is holy, and do violence to the law.

On such as these, Zephaniah insists there will come The Day of the Lord, a time of terrible vengeance and the inspiration for some of John the Baptizer’s threats remembered in today’s gospel. But all are not lost. There are a few faithful ones whom the Lord will save. The prophet says later in the same chapter:

    “But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord, the remnant of Israel. They shall do no wrong and speak no lies.”

Proclaiming the Passage

This is the reason for the positive, uplifting tone of today’s reading, which concludes Zephaniah’s book. Proclaim it as if you’re addressing a faithful few in the midst of a godless multitude. That’s what Zephaniah was doing.
SOURCE: LectorPrep.org — Used with permission.
  • Climax: Twice the prophet reminds us that The Lord is in our midst. 


lector preparation

  • Message for Assembly: The end of our advent is the Lord.  It is this expectation that allows us, that even demands for us to let loose the spirit in us.  “We wait in joyful hope,” as we pray in the Eucharist, and we notice the tension (Now!  Not yet!) in those words.
  • Challenge: To declare the verses with the joy we share when the risen Christ is with us, like a caller inviting the couples into the dance.

Reading Guide/Reflection

Shout for Joy! Be glad and exult with all your heart.

  • Shout for joy!  From the very first verse, I know I am listening to encouraging words; better yet, exultant lyrics: 
  • Be glad and exult with all your heart.  The campaign song that closes a political convention, with all the hopeful candidates swaying in unison on the main stage, might sound like this.  Let me aim my rehearsals so that I capture a similar mood.

The Lord has removed the judgment against you.

  • Of course there are some differences.  Here we have a done deal.  God delivers on promises made. 
  • We won!

The Lord is in our midst

  • Twice the prophet reminds us of this. 

You have no further misfortune to fear.

  • The prophet also speaks to our fears.
  • Twice I hear this command to lay aside our concerns.

He will rejoice over you with gladness.

  • Guess who has begun the song.  If God has taken the lead, how can we hold back?  Is my God a God who applauds the people’s victory?  
  • Today I had better speak of such a happy God.

See your children

  • The holy city will not hide itself before a mirror, but will look upon the people gathered from the east and the west who are called to live there – to be born there, as the psalm says. 
  • I rehearse a sense of depth in my voice as I say these words.

He will sing joyfully as one sings at festivals

  • My own experiences of peak excitement have to do with political conventions, but people of every culture reserved their greatest exuberance and abandon to the festivals at the end of harvest, such as vendimia in the grape-growing countries.  
  • I imagine not so much a concert performer to whom we are listening and clapping our hands in passive applause, but a call-and-response master like Pete Seeger whose song appeals to our own heart.  
  • Other examples can serve our purpose, as long as they lead to the full participation to which the prophet has invited us.
SOURCE: Lectorworks.org — Used with permission.
Click on chevron banners above to SHOW/HIDE content.

Philippians 4:4-7

YouTube player
Lector and trainer Lisa Bellecci-St. Romaine gives meaningful insights into the reading while conversing with the viewer throughout her proclamation. (View Archive)

Introduction to Second Reading

When Saint Paul wrote to the good Christians at Philippi, he and they believed Jesus was soon to come again. Paul is confident that the Philippians are ready. He urges them to let their virtue be an example for others. (Greg Warnusz) —Greg Warnusz


The Historical Situation

Paul was very fond of and confident in the Philippian Christians. Perhaps he had more confidence in them than they had in themselves, for he feels the need to bolster their courage in view of what is coming. They believed then that Jesus would return very soon (“The Lord is near.”) in glory to judge the world. Paul was sure they’d be ready.

Proclaiming the Passage

So proclaim this as if you want to inspire confidence in a good but worried people. You want them to have three responses to their situation:

  • Rejoice (you enjoin this twice)
  • Be so kind that they become famous for it
  • Pray confidently

The consequence will be to open them to the peace of God beyond all understanding. A most worthy goal.

SOURCE: LectorPrep.org — Used with permission.
  • Climax: The Lord is near, the code words of Advent.


  • lector preparationMessage for the assembly: There is no room for anxiety among us.  Let us help each other to whisk it away.
  • Challenge: To read the apostle’s words with great restraint and warmth and finality.  There is nothing left to say but this.

Reading Guide/Reflection

Rejoice in the Lord always!

  • Rejoice in the Lord always!  The apostle is ending his letter to his beloved church and uses a conventional word of farewell.  
  • Then he repeats it – I shall say it again, Rejoice!  as if to say: Good-bye – yes!  I mean it, God be with you.  
  • Maybe I can achieve an interpretation like that if I alter my accentuation on the second ‘rejoice.’

Your kindness should be known to all

  • Your kindness should be known to all.  In other words, the church should be on its best behavior in these last days: (because) The Lord is near.  That is the reality that guides them and us, not some nationalistic slogan such as ‘Motherland,’ ‘Vaterland’ or ‘God bless America.’ 

The Lord is near

  •  the code words of Advent

Have no anxiety at all

  • I hear an echo of the prophet’s advice in the first reading.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus

  • The peace we seek is deeper and more lasting than a secular ‘peace in our time.’  It is ‘The peace of the Lord’ with which we bless each other in the Eucharist.

Go to Gospel, Luke 3:10-18

SOURCE: Lectorworks.org — Used with permission.
Click on chevron banners above to SHOW/HIDE content.

Please be patient
as page loads

Please be patient
as page loads

Please be patient
as page loads

Gregory Warnusz

Sunday Scriptures for Community Leaders


Featured Excerpts

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

New College Bible Commentary

The Word of the Lord (John Bergsma)

Word Made Flesh (Christopher West)