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Watches of the Night
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"Watches of the Night"

"Advent Armor"

          This third Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as "Guadete Sunday" (Guadete is the Latin word for "rejoice"). Our first two readings this Sunday (Zephaniah 3:14-18a; Philippians 4:4-7) encourage us to praise God with joy in our hearts. In a prophetic burst of energy the Prophet, Zephaniah, exhorts us:

"Shout for joy...sing joyfully...Be glad and exult with all your heart...The LORD  is in your midst...be not discouraged!"

In Philippians St. Paul adds: "Rejoice in the Lord always...the Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all..." In both of these texts one is exhorted to rejoice because the Lord is present. An intercessor must always live rooted in the truth that "Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20).

           Both discouragement and anxiety (or fear) can be potential "seasonal sabotages" at this time of the year for any variety of reasons. One can feel overwhelmed by all the details of preparation that lead up to Christmas, or the thought of family gatherings where there are 'strained' relationships. One can feel overwhelmed by the national and global news. Also, this year one may feel quite challenged by the news of a new wave of clergy abuse allegations that are impacting the Church. Nevertheless, it is both our privilege and obligation as intercessors to rejoice even when times are hard because our foundational truth, our grounding reality, remains unchanged even in turbulent times: "The Lord is near!" Praise and joy are inner dispositions of heart and mind that form "Advent Armor" for each of us. The Book of Nehemiah reminds us that, "rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength: (Neh.8:10). St. Paul does not wait until his trials and troubles cease before he rejoices: "I am filled with encouragement, I am overflowing with joy all the more because of all our affliction" (2 Cr. 7:4).

          Our readings this Sunday can encourage us because God promises to bring life out of death and hope from despair. St. Paul wrote his Letter to the Philippians, his most joy-filled letter, while he was in prison. He wrote from "a place of victory" in his heart. He wrote as the freest of men! Hence, this Advent a "prison inmate" encourages us from within the physical confines of his jail cell! One can sense in St. Paul the word of God spoken through Isaiah, the Prophet: "God indeed is my savior. I am confident and unafraid" (Is. 12:2).

          The Prophet, Zephaniah, proclaims a prophecy of restoration and comfort to the chosen people in the midst of their affliction: "You have no further misfortune to fear" (Zeph. 3:15). He speaks both a message of renewal while acknowledging a present time of trial and distress. Just as fear and discouragement are realities one can choose to live from, so, too, are praise and joy. St. Augustine exhorts us:

"Our thoughts in this present life should turn on the praise of God...So we praise God during our earthly life, and at the same time we make our petitions to him. Our praise is expressed with joy, our petitions with yearning" ("From a discourse on the psalms by Saint Augustine, bishop". LH vol. II, p. 864).  

Questions:

1)    Do I allow fear and discouragement to get an upper hand in my life?

2)   Do I engage joy and praise as "armor and weapons" in my life?

Scriptures:

Any scripture from the text; Psalm 119:175; Phil. 1:4; 1 Th. 5:18

"TWO-ZERO-ONE-EIGHT, TIME TO EXPIATE"

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