A Reflection on the Third Sunday of Advent, December 12, 2021
Reading I: Zephaniah 3:14-18a
Responsorial Psalm: Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6
Reading II: Philippians 4:4-7
Gospel: Luke 3:10-18
When I read the scriptures, I come across verses that say the Lord has conquered our enemies, but I feel somewhat confused. The enemies of the Lord and his followers are evermore present and active in our world. God says that he has saved us from our enemies, yet the evil in this world still remains. How can we understand what the Lord is telling us . . .
First, we must understand what the Word of God identifies as “the enemy.” In the Old Testament, the enemies of the Lord and his people were typically the pagan, non-Jewish people that would wage war against them and take them into bondage. These enemies would lead the people of God to worship idols and false Gods, thereby causing God to condemn them for their idolatrous sin. The enemy was more of a physical entity.
In the New Testament, the enemy is more focused on the spiritual, and the consequences of falling into the “hands of the enemy” are greater. As a New Testament (new Covenant) people, we are taught that the enemy is Satan and all his followers. (Mt 13:38-39) We also know from the scriptures that the true enemy is sin itself. Sin is what prevents us from entering into the eternal glory to be with God; it is spiritual death.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.(Rom 6:23)
Not just any sin will cause us to lose our salvation, though – it must be a mortal sin. Mortal sin is that act that violates the 10 Commandments or the moral laws of the Church. (See Gal 5:19-21)
Why are the consequences more severe for the New Testament people of God? Because God has higher expectations for us. We have been given the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and we are capable of overcoming all sin if we allow God’s grace to work in us through the power of the Sacraments. Freedom from our enemy is now freedom from the clutches of sin and its consequences. The world may hurt us physically through persecutions, but they cannot take our salvation.
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Mt 10:28)
The Lord our God has provided salvation from our true enemies through the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Through him, we now have salvation, not from the troubles from this world, for he said there would be trouble in this world for his followers, but salvation from the eternal punishment of hell.
I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (Jn 16:33)
So when we read the Old Testament prophesies of salvation from our enemies, we must interpret them primarily as being fulfilled in the promises of the Gospel through our Lord Jesus Christ. This is why the scriptures can say that Lord has “turned away your enemies” meaning that that sin no longer has power over us if we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives to convert our hearts to God and allow his grace to fill us. The Old Testament says that “the LORD, is in your midst, be not discouraged.” (Zephaniah 3:15) The Lord is truly in our midst! He comes and is present at every Eucharist, body, blood, soul and divinity! The world may have its way with us and trample Christians like the dust of the earth, but “God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid.” “My strength and my courage is the LORD.” (Isaiah 12:2)
So what are we to gather from the scriptures when the Lord tells us that he will “wipe away our tears” and that all will be perfect? (Is 28:8) Not all our rewards are here on earth. The ultimate and greatest reward will be eternal life with HIM for all eternity. Only then will all our “tears be wiped away” and only then will death be ultimately eliminated. Our job is to trust him and persevere to the end. (Mt 10:22)
What we can look forward to in this world is that even if we are suffering, we can still have joy in our lives through the peace that only God can provide.
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit. (1Thes 1:6)
This “peace” is the key to understanding how we can be suffering in this world and yet have the joy that in our hearts that God desires for every one of us. God is with us and will provide that peace if we strive to eliminate anxiety through trust in God. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:4-7
The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Why have no anxiety at all? Because the Lord is near . . . trust him. We have been baptized “with the Holy Spirit and fire,” why do we fear? Why do we worry? A wise man once told me, “If you pray, don’t worry, and if you worry, don’t pray.” That man was my earthly father. I have not forgotten his words . . . I have learned to trust the Lord’s words, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Ps 46:10)
Peace be with you always,