Third Sunday in Advent
The readings today speak of a joyful anticipation of a future event. The gospel recounts how the people were “filled with expectation” and the prophet Zephaniah exhorts his listeners to “exalt with all your heart”. The future event, at least in the mind of most Jews at the time of Jesus, was the anticipation of the return of the Davidic Kingdom. This is the time when Israel existed as the main power in the Middle East. Joy would be unbounded when once again military and economic supremacy would be centered in the house of Israel.
Jesus does not dampen the enthusiasm but he does redirect its foundation. The kingdom of God and the renovation of the house of Israel did not mean a renewal of political strength but rather a renewal of the two fundamental commandments identified by Jesus; love of God and love of neighbor. By means of this redirection, human lives would move towards their fundamental purpose and, in fulfilling this purpose, find true happiness. This transformation, of course, is reason for great joy.