ZEPH 3; 14-18 ; PHIL 4:4-7 ; LUKE 3:10-18

Crowds came to John the Baptist in the Jordan valley.  The Evangelist informs us concerning the reason for this surge of a large number of persons to the rugged land situated at a considerable distance from Jerusalem.  The Evangelist writes that THE PEOPLE WERE FULL OF EXPECTATION.  Luke goes on to explain that the cause of their excitement was their impression that John seemed to be the long desired Messiah.  He in a number of ways resembled the figure described by the Second Isaiah who centuries before had proclaimed "A voice crying out in the desert:" Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of the Lord in the solitude."  The religious and political atmosphere in the holy land was charged with an anticipation that made the Jews sensitive to any signs that the long-awaited Savior of the chosen people had come.

Today's liturgy echoes that same climate of eager expectation as it urges us to relive with all the faithful through the ages the same welcoming expectation of our deliverance from a world that is felt as oppressive and alien by those faithful to God's revelation.  The expectation we are urged to cultivate has a much stronger stimulus and a firmer support than was available to the Jews of the Baptist's times, for we have been given firm knowledge of the Messiah with a clarity of evidence supplied by the whole Gospel message.  So sure, so convincing are the many features surrounding the witness of Jesus that he is in all truth the long awaited Messiah sent by God that our faith is for us a source of strength and of a quiet, solid joy.

In keeping with this conviction arising from the gift of faith, as we prepare to re-enact in our Advent liturgy the time of expectation of a fresh encounter with the Savior whom we know as being the beloved Son of God, we are urged by Saint Paul so to open our hearts to God's loving plan so as to be filled with joy.  He expressed his eagerness to the Philippians as we just heard: "Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again: Rejoice.  Make your kindness known to all.  The Lord is near."  Our faith tells us that God so loves us that He gave his beloved son that we might find entry into His presence and be united with Him forever.  Having this assurance of being chosen by the all holy and omnipotent Father to belong to him through faith in his Son, we are offered a share in the Spirit that erupts in a quiet, interior joy.

The first reading too encourages us to deepen our trusting faith in God's loving care.  The prophet Zephaniah exclaims to the people of his day: "Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem.  The Lord has removed his judgment against you."  The Savior he promised has come and, having expiated our sins by his sufferings and death, has enabled us to share in the divine life he has opened to us.

With firm trust in the loving offer of eternal life with the God who is love, we now celebrate this Eucharist in thanksgiving and with ardent expectation of a fresh increment of God's favor as we prepare, with joy and thanksgiving, the way of our God soon to come through the Virgin Mary, to save us from the many evils and threats that today abound in our country.  May each of us welcome Him with lively faith and with hearts determined to prove worthy of the loving trust the Lord us in this Eucharistic communion.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger