(Image of the Advent wreath is from ImageVine/courtesy of www.imagevine.com. All rights reserved.)
THIRD SUNDAY of ADVENT
(Zeph 3: 14-18; Phil 4: 4-7; Lk 3: 10-18)
Francis of Assisi knew and understood the perfect joy that today’s scriptures invite us to experience. To his beloved brother Leo, Francis related that perfect joy is not an emotion that is roused as a result of outside circumstances. Even if all the great theologians joined the Franciscan Order, or all non-Christians converted to Christianity, or by God’s grace we were able to cure all diseases, this would not be perfect joy, Francis says. Certainly, such happy events would be cause for rejoicing and great delight. Everyone experiences joy in times of grace, blessedness and success. To Brother Leo’s incredulous question, “Then what is true joy?” Francis reveals to Leo what the scriptures reveal to us. The true manifestation of perfect joy is found when, in the midst of misunderstanding, rejection and failure, a person is able to maintain patience, equanimity and peace in their spirit.
How can this be? Ah! that is the crux of the issue and the question that resounds throughout this holy season. The answer rests upon knowing and experiencing the nearness of God. “The Lord, your God, is in your midst”, the prophet Zephaniah shouts out, not once, but twice, in today’s pericope. God’s promise to us is not to remove all further misfortune, discouragement or failure. Rather, God promises to remove our fear. When crippling fear is cast out, we know the shelter found in God’s love. In that Love all things are possible and with that Love our joy is perfected and complete.
– Bro. David Liedl, T.O.R.
(Originally printed in According to Your Word - Reflections for the Advent & Christmas Seasons; See http://franciscanfriarstor.blogspot.com/2011/11/according-to-your-word-reflections-for.html)