Rejoice, the Lord is with you

Sunday readings in brief 3 Advent C

Zep 3:14-18; Ps (Is 12); Phil 4:4-7; Lk 3:10-18

Rejoice, the Lord is with you

Dear friends, today is the 3rd Sunday of Advent season commonly known as Laudate Sunday, which means, “rejoice”. Today we light the pink candle that symbolizes joy over the good news that our saviour is about to be born. We have reached the middle of the season and the readings are calling us to be happy because our help is in our midst. When we find ourselves in trouble or serious problem, there are those who encourage us and make us not lose hope. Everyone feels joy in the heart at that voice of reassurance that things will be fine. Take for example when someone is very sick and in excruciating pain, the encouraging words from the doctor and the visitors are more healing than the medicine itself.

Prophet Zephaniah exalts the people of Israel who had gone through a lot of suffering in the hands of their enemies. We know that the prosperity or otherwise the calamity of the people of Israel was a direct consequence of their obedience or disobedience to the commandments of Yahweh respectively. Zephaniah tells them to rejoice because, “the Lord has repealed your sentence, and has driven your enemies away”.

I remember the days back in the minor Seminary, a bishop from South Sunday visited us and narrated how he spent two days in the toilet due to the conflicts. He told us that there was gunfire everywhere and the safest place he could find was the toilet. He only came out when he could not hear anymore the sound of gunfire. A lot of gunfire may be surrounding you now. Today the good news is that our help is in our midst. St. Paul tells, “Be happy and do not worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving”. The surest way to conquer fear is to trust in God.

At the preaching of John the Baptist, different people came to him asking what to do so that the day of the Lord may find them on the right side. For the tax collectors, John responded, “Exact no more than your rate”. For the soldiers he said, “Do not intimidate or extort, be content with your pay”.

Dear friends, there is a lot of injustice is the society today. Most of it is caused by corruption of the basic human values such us love and concern for the welfare of one another. There is so much poverty in the society not because there is not enough for everyone but because the systems that are charged to ensure proper distribution of wealth are corrupted. The corrupt public service denies the citizenry efficient services and this cripples their development. Public officials are paid by the tax money to render service to the people who pay those taxes. However, the sad reality is that many of these official demand extra payment from the poor in order to offer them the very services they have already paid for.

Take for example the justice system. So many poor people have become even poorer because justice has become too expensive. A good example is the case of Irene (not his real name). Irene is one of our Catechists who has a land conflict with his neighbour. This neighbour decided to expand his piece of land by encroaching on Irene’s land. Irene goes to the land office and files a complaint. When his neighbour learns about it, he goes to the same office, gives bribe to officials and Irene’s complaint file goes missing. Irene goes back to inquire about the case and he is told that the file went missing and so he has to pay to get another file. For the last one year, Irene has been visiting different government land offices, which are very far away from his home. When he goes, he has to spend on transport and accommodation leaving his family hungry. The very thought of this scenario is very frustrating.

Another case is that of Philip (not his real name) whose daughter was raped and became pregnant. When Philip reported the case at the village office, he was arrested and asked to pay an equivalent of 1000 USD so that his case can be prosecuted. I came to know about this because Philip came to my office to ask for the money. Since I did not have the money to give for bribe, he had to go back and sell two cows. He gave the money to some officials and was told to come the following day. When he returned he found a different official who demanded his own share. Finally he was not able to follow the case.

Dear friends, when the world is so much corrupt, the only refuge for the poor is the message of the Messiah who is to be born. I would like us today to introspect and see if we are part of those who make life difficult for others or those who help to console and reassure the sufferings that the God of justice lives.

Have a blessed Sunday.

Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD

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