3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
December 16, 2012
Zephaniah calls us upon the people to shout for joy, be glad, and exult. He writes before the Babylonian Exile when the Kingdom of Israel was about to fall and the people are lamenting. They are in fear but Zephaniah tells them not to fear and not to be discouraged. One might ask why not? Given the circumstances didn’t they have every reason to fear and be discouraged?
We might be feeling the same way right now about the school shooting in Newtown Connecticut, sadness, grief, and lament.
Again, Zephaniah calls for them to shout for joy and be glad. How can they do this when things look so grim?
Zephaniah seeks to remind them that God is in their midst. In the Old Testament the common thought was that if things were going well, you had pleased God and were receiving his blessings. If things were going badly, then you must have sinned and angered God.
Zephaniah tells them that even though they have sinned and things are not going the way they want, that God is still in their midst and will renew them in his love. So, they do not need to fear. Even as the kingdom of Israel collapses God is with them.
In the same way, we know in faith that God was and is present at Sandy Hook Elementary. God was there during the shootings. God was there with the emergency responders. God was and is present at every one of the prayer vigils. God is present in every tear that is shed over this.
Some say God causes bad things to happen to punish us. God did NOT cause this shooting to happen. Sometimes bad things happen because of choices we make. This time something terrible happened because of the choice of one person. Sometimes we have no idea why bad things happen. Sometimes only God knows. All we can do is put our faith in God
Moving forward, Paul continues to call the Philippians to rejoice. He calls them to “have no anxiety.” Anxiety can separate us from God. Anxiety can be very real.
The Israelites probably had anxiety over the fall of Israel. The Philippians probably had anxiety over Paul’s arrest and the persecution of Christians around them.
What causes you anxiety?
Is it worries about having a good job or even a job all?
Is there a family illness causing anxiety?
Repairs on the car or home?
There is no doubt that there are things that go on in our lives that cause us anxiety. What effect does the anxiety have on us? What can be do about it? These are real problems that need to be dealt with. We need to think about solutions to problems we have control over. We need to realize what is ours to fix, what we cannot fix, and where in the midst of our anxieties do we need God’s help. Then we turn it over to God.
We need to trust in God. For some, trusting in God means believing that he is going to make everything the way we think it should be. That’s not trust in God if what we seek is his way. Trusting in God means recognizing he is the one who knows what is best. Remember what we say in the Lord’s Prayer, thy will be done?
For me, trusting in God also means realizing that everything isn’t the way God wants to be. Why? Because God gives us and everyone else free will. When bad things happen, it isn’t God who causes them. Bad things are often the results of our own decisions or the decisions of others.
Trusting in God does include us asking God to take away our problems but if that is not his will, then to trust that God will lead us through our sufferings. Remember Jesus praying in the garden, Father if this cup could pass from me but not my will but yours be done.”
It’s hard to hand it all over to God. The crowds ask John the Baptist, “what must we do?” He tells them to share what they have been given.
The tax collectors ask John “What should we do?” He tells them to stop extorting money from the people as they collect the taxes, meaning their faith must be part of their work.
The soldiers ask the same question and John tells them to stop abusing their position for their own gain. John the Baptist made the coming of the Messiah his whole life. If we want God to help us, we can’t just hand over part of our lives. We have to hand over our whole lives to let Jesus truly come into our lives.
Only when we trust in God in all things can we know his peace. What are you holding back on?