Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday)
December 12, 2020
Readings: Isaiah 61:1-2A, 10-11; Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28 https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/121320.cfm
The Third Sunday of Advent is a special time to rejoice. That’s why it’s called “Gaudete” Sunday, which means rejoice! But what are we rejoicing about? It’s a time to say, “Look! Christmas is just around the corner! The Lord is coming soon!” We mark this joy with rose colored candle on the Advent wreath, the altar cloth and priest’s vestments. And some of you have outwardly entered into that joyful spirit by wearing rose/pink or decorating your cars with that color at the outdoor mass this Sunday. Rejoice!
Today we hear several voices sharing this joyful message – from Isaiah the prophet, from Mary the mother of Jesus and from John the Baptist – all saying “I’ve heard the good news! The messiah is coming! Rejoice and get ready!”
As we begin this liturgy we ask God for the grace to see, feel and enter into that divine joy – to really be moved by the words of Isaiah and Mary and John – and not be distracted or dragged down by what troubles us.
Lord Jesus, you gather the nations into the peace of God’s kingdom.
Lord have mercy…
Lord Jesus, you come to us in Word and Sacrament to strengthen us in holiness.
Christ have mercy…
Lord Jesus, you will come in glory with salvation for your People.
Lord have mercy…
John the Baptist was attracting a lot of attention, as we heard this week and last week. He wore clothes made of camel’s hair and ate locusts and honey. Anyone who did would surely garner attention! There he was, out in the wilderness, on the fringe of society, by the banks of the river, preaching and baptizing bigger and bigger crowds who were going out to see him. If for no other reason, people were curious who this character was and what he had to say.
The message he felt compelled to share was a joyful one – the messiah is coming! Repent and believe! Change your ways! Make a new start!
As we heard, the religious leaders were especially curious and so they interrogated him. Was he Elijah come back to life on earth? Was he the messiah himself? Pointing to the prophesy of Isaiah, John says, ‘this is who I am’: “A voice of one crying out in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord!” John is a herald, a prophet of God’s coming salvation for his people. In humility he says, “I am unworthy to stoop to untie his sandle.”
Clearly John was so sure. He knew at the deepest part of his being that something so very good, the miraculous work of God, was about to happen – right in his midst. And he just had to share that news.
Have you felt like that before? When something really exciting happens, or is about to? You feel light and free, you feel like shouting it from the rooftops! Have you ever been so happy that you sing and dance – maybe on your own in front of the bathroom mirror?! Or have you taken delight in sharing good news with someone else?
A college admission!
Healing from an illness.
A marriage proposal.
The birth of a child.
In these moments you are compelled from deep inside by God’s spirit alive in you.
This is what Isaiah must have been feeling when he wrote:
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.
Friends, truly what Isaiah testified to is what God desperately desires for humanity! And the heart of Isaiah aligned with God’s, so he could be God’s instrument.
Centuries later, a pregnant, yet-unmarried teenager named Mary felt a similar joy when she realized the good God was up to:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, […]
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy.
In his own time, John the Baptist felt similarly compelled with overflowing joy, inspired by Isaiah the prophet, to see with clear eyes that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the anointed one of God, come to save his people. He had to announce that to the world! Rejoice he must! And Rejoice he did!
Haven’t you noticed that joy is contagious? When someone is joyful around you, your mood changes too – perhaps you also dance and sing, you tap into a refreshing sense of freedom, you’re taken outside of yourself, and your worries and darkness give way to an expansive light.
At the end of John’s gospel Jesus prays, “May my joy be in you so that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).
Right now, consider a moment of great joy in your life – recently or perhaps in the distant past. [pause]
Savor it as a gift! [pause]
Is it also a call? [pause]
Is God giving you such joy because you’re meant to share the message in some way?
God longs for food for the hungry, healing for the brokenhearted, freedom to the oppressed, mercy for all people, salvation for all and a divine project we cooperate with wholeheartedly – like Isaiah and Mary and John the Baptist.
How may you be a joyful prophet of your time?!
It is not so hard, really…
You need not be a strange fellow dressed in camel’s hair!
You needn’t be a pious mystic.
Just go to that place of JOY that you thought of just now and, ask God, just Mary did,
what sort of call this may be?
See, where you are feeling joy, light, freedom, expansiveness, generosity and love – that is the place where you can trust that it is God’s spirit moving in you. That’s the voice to listen to. That’s the call to answer.
St. Paul warns:
Do not quench the Spirit!
Do not despise prophetic utterances!
Many of us have been trained to hold back our tears, to stifle our laughter, to restrain our voices. But when the Holy Spirit moves us with joy and a compelling desire to share it, do not hold back. Do not quench the Spirit. Let yourself be God’s prophet proclaiming good news.
And John did not only TALK by the banks of the river to those who came to him. He invited his listeners to MAKE a new start, to know that their God had hope in them, and so they should have hope in themselves too. With God all things are possible. So John’s followers were baptized and ritually were cleansed of their sins, and chose to LIVE more loving and holy lives.
Last Sunday I told you that Advent is about ACTION, not only inner dispositions. Joy moved Mary and John the Baptist to act. So too with Us.
With joy in our hearts – savoring the joys of our life – let’s share what that joy allows us to touch:
God’s mercy, and justice, and peace for all people,
and especially for those who are poor or oppressed.
When our feet are planted in the Light of God which joy enables us to touch, we can be unafraid and un-alone in the face of any darkness and gloom.
An early Church Father, St. Basil the Great, expressed
“When someone steals another’s clothes, we call them a thief. Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat unused belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.”
So what action shall our JOY move us to this Advent?
In the remaining time before Christmas may we savor our joy, and ask God how through it he is calling us to act.