3rd Sunday of Advent Jn 1:6-8, 19-28
This weekend the Church celebrates “Gaudete Sunday,” the name coming from the opening word of the Entrance Antiphon. In Latin, “gaudete” means “to rejoice.” Rejoicing is not indicated because Advent, and its stress on prayer and penance, almost are completed, but rather because Christmas is nearer.
Another reason for rejoicing is that, hopefully, everyone feels closer to God as a result of observing Advent with prayer, reflection and penance. If Advent has been followed as intended by the Church, all are nearer to a fuller communion with the Lord, the “light of the world.”
Priests may wear rose-colored vestments on this weekend, symbolizing that the dark violet of Advent is already being lightened by the forthcoming light of the Lord’s arrival in our souls.
The third part of Isaiah furnishes the first reading. When this passage was written, God’s people were weary and, frankly, quite frustrated.
They, or their forebears, had undergone great hardship in Babylon. When finally allowed to leave Babylon to return to their homeland, they understandably were overjoyed.
Returning home, however, they found a sterile and parched land. Want was everywhere. Had God tricked them? Did God provide for their release from Babylon only to subject them to further trials at home? Did God even exist, anyway?
Typically for Third Isaiah, this reading glows with optimism. Whatever may be the reality of the moment, for those loyal to God, a wondrous future awaits. The faithful always have cause to rejoice.
St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians provides the second reading. Belief in this Second Coming, and impatience to see it occur, were widespread in the first generations of Christianity. This reading clearly anticipates the Second Coming of Christ.
Longing for the Second Coming among the early Christians is not hard to explain. They had much to endure. Fearful persecution had developed. Christianity was outlawed. The culture all around the Christians was hostile. Temptations to renounce the Gospel abounded.
Paul reassured the Christians of Thessalonica, telling them to be true to the Gospel. God’s goodness one day would prevail.
St. John’s Gospel is the source of the last reading. The reading is a story about John the Baptist whose own identity puzzled many of his contemporaries. Some assumed that John was the Messiah. If not the Messiah, others wondered if he were Elijah, or another prophet who had returned to earth.
Replying to these questions, John was very firm. Another would follow him. John’s calling was to prepare the way for the true representative of God, who eventually would come. It will be wonderful. John is not worthy even to untie the straps of his sandals.
The Church calls us to rejoice, presuming that we have spent the weeks of Advent pondering within ourselves the meaning of salvation for us personally and individually. It presumes that we have sought God, and truth, in our prayer and in our penance. It supposes our sincerity.
It also presumes that in this process of prayer and thought, we have increased our faith in Jesus. When the Lord’s kingdom comes, we are prepared to sing, “Gaudete!” Rejoice!
The Lord’s coming, anticipated in Advent, will face obstacles. We will be tempted to ignore God, to forsake our resolve to be saints. Also tempted were the people once trapped in Babylon and the Thessalonians. The Lord, however, will prevail. We will not be patient and determined in vain.
Always the good teacher, always interested in guiding us through reality to God, the Church, in these readings, instructs us to continue looking for Jesus, as Jesus actually is, and not to create our own version of the Messiah.
If we have the true image of the Lord in our eyes, we will reject sin. We will find God.
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