2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Philippians 1:4-6, 9-11
December 9, 2012
As we ended the last liturgical year and began our season of Advent our readings pointed to the End Times. We called to do so with hope of the glory of Heaven but we don’t always feel that way when we think about our own readiness.
Today, the gospel readings begin to turn to the events leading up to the earthly ministry of Jesus. Today, John the Baptist calls for the people to “prepare the way of the Lord.” This is exactly what Advent is all about.
John the Baptist preached called for a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. It might seem like a difficult message to accept but it’s not meant that way. John the Baptist sees the coming of the Lord as a joyous event.
John speaks of how the Lord will make things right. Jesus is our Savior. The first part of this gospel where it lists the government leaders may seem to just provide a setting. That was my thinking about it when I first looked at it this week. Then, one of the commentaries said that it isn’t just to give a time or speak of a place. The people it lists are powerful figures of the time but they are not the ones who make things right in the world. Jesus is our Savior and so we celebrate his birth with great joy.
All of our readings today speak of a joyous attitude in the midst of difficult times. In the gospel, the earthly difficult lies in the fact that the Israelites are subservient to the Romans.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he opens with his praying with joy for the Philippians. Paul writes this from prison. He could be sad and discouraged by his imprisonment but he is not. Rather he finds joy in the Philippians. That joy leads to confidence that God will continue to bless them and “continue to complete” what he has begun in them.
Baruch worked with Jeremiah and offers our first reading today in the time of the Babylonian Exile, a time of great distress and sadness for the Israelites. In their distress, they would have dressed in mourning and misery but Baruch tells them to stop this and “put on the splendor of glory from God forever.” Baruch does not tell them to be ready to be joyful when God sets them free. He tells them to do this now. We are not to wait for good things to be joyful. We can be joyful simply because God loves us.
What’s keeping you from being joyful? Sometimes being joyful isn’t all that easy.
I think about when we face the death of a loved one. We are sad because of the loss. We mourn and grieve. That’s natural but when we believe in Jesus and the Resurrection we can find joy in knowing that our loved one may receive the gift of eternal life.
It can be hard to be joyful when we are overburdened by work. We might find joy in knowing that our work and ministry can help make the world a better place.
It can be hard to be joyful when we face challenges to living our faith from others but we can find peace and joy in knowing that Jesus faced the same thing. So, as we face this, we know we walk with Jesus and he with us.
War and violence is difficult and trying but we find some peace in knowing this is not God’s way.
This brings us to an important distinction about peace and joy. When people hear the world peace, the focus often turns to a world without any war or violence. That is the ideal. When we think of joy we think that it means we don’t have any problems and are happy and smiling. These are earthly interpretations of peace and joy. We should seek this time of both peace and joy. But God’s peace transcends earthly peace. God’s joy transcends human difficulty. Now, if everyone truly and fully accepted God’s peace and joy, there would not be any war or violence. But not everyone has accepted it so the wars and violence continue.
But in the midst of the wars and violence, we can look beyond what we see in this world to see what God sees, hope, and from this we find God’s peace and joy. I don’t mean to make it sound too simple. It isn’t. We face real challenges in our earthly lives. We can face what might seem like insurmountable odds.
No matter what we face, God walks with us. That is our joy.
What challenges do you face that make it difficult to know God’s joy?