THE CHALLENGE A Reflection from the Interpath Traditions by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
For many Christians, the Third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete invites us to rejoice as the great Feast of the Birth is fast upon us. There is a sense of expectation in the air. We need to experience some joy in this time of uncertainty and unrest. The tragic nature of the daily news is heart-breaking causing us to grieve deeply. I, for one, am overwhelmed with sorrow as I learn of close friends who have died, violence in our schools, and political leaders posing with family members holding guns to welcome the Season. Life can be difficult enough.
Why would anyone rejoice over weapons of destruction as they wish for ammunition for Christmas? Is it not time to melt down the guns and extinguish the fears and hatreds in our hearts? How many more people need to be gunned down in a Synagogue, killed as they change classes, or murdered as they bear witness in the streets? We need to hear good news. We need reasons to hope and rejoice.
One of the readings for Gaudete Sunday is from the Prophet Zephaniah who confronted the temptation to worship false gods. We often worship false gods under the pretext of virtue, freedom, and religion. We can harbor racism, sexism, and intolerance of all kinds under the illusion we are observing God’s ways and laws. We are often tempted to worship money and the power of wealth as if materiality is a sign of God’s favor. Zephaniah, like Jeremiah, called for justice, integrity, and compassion.
The Gospel proclamation for the Third Sunday of Advent is stunning. The Baptizer appears and speaks in seemingly harsh terms. He confronts tax collectors, soldiers, and those charged with authority. John the Baptizer demands an end of extortion, calls for justice, and invites honesty and sincerity. As he baptizes the multitudes, he never speaks of religion without calling for doing what is just.
We might expect his hearers would be upset as John confronts the issues of the day. However, the Gospel text informs us, “The peoples’ hope began to rise!” Hope and joy are sisters born of justice and peace. John’s confrontation of the corruption of his time is met with courageous optimism by those who were enthralled by his courage to speak up.
One could say they rejoiced in his words. They found hope in his challenge. His honesty and boldness opened for them pathways to new ways of living. They were reborn in the spirit of their shared humanity.
All John demanded was common decency, honesty, and integrity. It is amazing how simple virtues can change the circumstances of life and the future of the World. Advent spends considerable time with the Baptizer. The Church needs to hear his message so the Gospel might flourish like a mighty river of justice and love. Society needs to listen to his message so integrity might be the standard of our civil and public affairs.
Whenever anyone rises to the occasion to be a person of justice, compassion, love, and respect, it is a time for rejoicing.
Thank you, Holy Community, for all the times you challenged others to be and do their best. Thank you for all the times you accepted the challenge of others to be your best.
As things begin to return to a new normal, we at The Interfaith Peace Project are here for you in any way that you need us. The Antioch Center is now open to fully vaccinated people on Wednesdays, from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. We are vigilant and will adjust to any and all recommendations from the state and county. We will continue our work through Zoom as we add in person programs. If you would like to schedule an in person or Zoom program or would like a phone appointment with any of us, give us a call. You may call or email Tom at: