Third Sunday of Advent, Cycle C

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First Reading
Zephaniah 3:14-18a
A savior is promised to Israel.

Responsorial Psalm
Isaiah 12:2-3,4,5-6
A song of praise to God our savior

Second Reading
Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice always because the Lord is near.

Gospel Reading
Luke 3:10-18
John the Baptist teaches the path of repentance and announces Christ.

Background on the Gospel Reading

This Sunday’s Gospel continues last week’s focus on John the Baptist and his role in preparing the way for Christ. Recall that last week’s reading described John’s appearance in the desert and established his connection with the prophetic tradition of Israel. If we were to read Luke’s Gospel continuously, we would learn about John the Baptist challenging the crowds who came to him and calling upon them to show evidence of their repentance. John tells his listeners that they cannot rely on their lineage as Israelites because children of Abraham can be raised up from stones. Repentance, rather, must be observable in one’s actions. Here, Luke is continuing to set up two important themes of his Gospel message: the Christian faith is expressed in one’s actions, and the call to salvation is extended to everyone, Jews and Gentiles.

In today’s Gospel reading, the crowds ask John the Baptist for specifics. What evidence of repentance is required? John replies by naming concrete actions: crowds should share their food and cloaks; tax collectors should be just; soldiers should act fairly. The concern for justice is a hallmark of Luke’s Gospel.

When the crowd begins to wonder if John the Baptist might be the Messiah, John interprets his baptism and makes it clear that his ministry is in preparation for the Messiah. John the Baptist knows his place and role in God’s plan of salvation. By encouraging the crowd to act similarly in accordance with their stations in life, John’s teaching suggests that each person has a role to play in God’s salvation. It is the great mystery of our salvation that God permits and even asks for human cooperation in his divine plans.

The third Sunday of Advent is also called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is a Latin word that means “rejoice.” This name is taken from the entrance antiphon for Sunday’s Mass, which is also echoed in today’s second reading from the Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Some people mark this Sunday by lighting a pink candle instead of a purple one on their Advent wreath. It is a reminder that the Advent season is a season of joy because our salvation is already at hand.-loyolapress.com

SOLEMNITY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

Today we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast celebrates God’s choice of Mary to be the mother of Jesus. God preserved Mary from the stain of original sin from the moment of her conception. Thus, Mary was the first to receive the benefit of the redemption that her Son would merit for all.

To reflect upon this mystery, the Gospel reading for today presents to us the story of the Annunciation. It is through her exchange with the angel Gabriel that Luke, the Evangelist, introduces the person of Mary. The Annunciation begins in the context of Luke’s account of the birth of John the Baptist. “In the sixth month,” referring to Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel appears to a virgin of Nazareth—Mary. Indeed, there are many parallels in Luke’s accounts of the births of John the Baptist and Jesus.

In this passage, Luke tells us much about Mary and the child she is to bear. We learn that Mary is a virgin from Nazareth who is betrothed to a man named Joseph, who was of the house of David. The angel greets Mary in the most glowing of terms, acknowledging the favor she has found with God. The son Mary is to conceive is described in messianic terms. He will be called “Son of the Most High” and the “Son of God.”

Mary is bold in her exchange with the angel. She is troubled by his greeting and questions the message, asking “How am I to bear a son if I have no relations with a man?” Mary is told that she will conceive through the power of the Holy Spirit and is offered a sign in the miraculous pregnancy of her elder cousin Elizabeth.

Mary’s affirmative response to this seemingly impossible message gives evidence to the grace we know that she possesses from God. Only one who is “full of grace” can be so receptive to and cooperative with the will of God. Because of this, Mary is the model of discipleship for all Christians.- loyolapress.com

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