What is of real value? What is worthless?

By Msgr. William Carr

Second Sunday of Advent

Baruch 5:1-9; Philippians 1:4-6,8-11; and Luke 3:1-6
Although the book of Baruch speaks of the return of the Exiles from Babylonian Captivity (c. 539 B.C.), the book was probably written about 100 years before Jesus Christ. It was written at Alexandria, Egypt, where many Jews were indifferent, and even embarrassed, by their faith.
They enjoyed the high living of Hellenist culture. Baruch urges them to “look to the east” (i.e toward Jerusalem) to be delivered from corruption. The gospel begins with a solemn pronouncement of the time: “In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar…Pontius Pilate procurator of Judea…Herod…Philip…Lysanias…during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas..”
We can hardly imagine a greater collection of corrupt scoundrels than these! Yet this is the setting for the preparation for the Messiah, John the Baptist’s preaching. We think that our own times are rotten, that violence and corruption are everywhere, that institutions no longer work, that the Church is retrenching, and that there seems to be no solution to our problems.
In just such circumstances, God sent his Son to save us! John the Baptist calls on us to prepare for his Coming: Straighten out the path of your life. Fill up the valleys of your depression. Bring down the mountains of your pride. Look for the salvation of God.
In the second reading, St. Paul urges us to learn what things have real value, and what is really worthless. Learn to choose what is of value so that we may be ready for the Coming of Christ.

Third Sunday of Advent
Zephaniah 3:14-18; Philippians 4:4-7; and Luke 3:10-18
Today is called “Gaudete Sunday.” “Gaudete” is the Latin word for “Rejoice!” It is the first word of the Entrance Antiphon.
Our first reading is from Zephaniah, a contemporary of Jeremiah. Israel had been destroyed in 721 B.C.; Only Judah remained, but Judah and Jerusalem were thoroughly corrupt. Zephaniah warns of doom unless people repent.
Most of the book of Zephaniah is depressing with its threats of “fire and brimstone.” But the last part of the book from which today’s first reading is taken, is joyful. Zephaniah sees a time when God will restore. We must rejoice because the Lord is in our midst.
The second reading was written by Paul when he was in jail at Ephesus. He suffered miserably, and most of his “friends” abandoned him. The people of Philippi helped him, however, and he wrote this friendly letter to them to thank them. He tells them (and us) to rejoice in the Lord always — even when we have problems. For the Lord is with us and will see us through.
John the Baptist, like Zephaniah and Jeremiah and the prophets of old, was fiery in his condemnation of sin and evil. But his message is simple: Do good and avoid evil. If you are a businessman, be a person of integrity and honesty. If you are a laborer, give a full day’s work for your wages. If you are a policeman, don’t bully anyone.
In other words be sincere, humble, and honest in your treatment of everyone. The world might not be perfect if we put this into effect. But it would surely be more of a place of peace and joy!