“Rejoice in the Lord always.”
My Sisters & Brothers in Christ,
We are in the third Sunday of Advent, this day is called “Gaudete Sunday” because the Mass for today (in its original Latin text), begins with the opening antiphon: “Gaudete in Domino semper” –“Rejoice in the Lord always.” To remind ourselves that we are preparing for the very joyful occasion of the birth of Jesus, we light the rose candle, and the priest may wear rose vestments. The common theme of today’s Scripture readings is “Rejoice in the Lord always. We turn back to prepare ourselves in order that we can welcome the Messiah and welcome the “day of the Lord” that he brings with him. In that world we can, as Paul says, rejoice, not just today but always, pray unceasingly and give thanks for everything. That is the life of a Christian after the coming of Christ.
One of the verses of Isaiah that Jesus quotes is the opening verse today is: The spirit of the Lord God is upon me” and “he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives…to release the prisoners and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” The spirit of God was in Jesus and it is in us as well, his gift to us to help us as we struggle through our lives, trying to ready for the day of the Lord which has begun but isn’t totally here yet. Some days we feel getting to that day has a long way to go, don’t we!
In place of the Psalm today the liturgy gives us the beautiful prayer of Mary who was facing a whole lot of trouble, a birth when she was unmarried, fear of what would happen. But she doesn’t get down. In fact, she trusts God’s plan for her, and her Magnificat is reminiscent of the person that Isaiah has described, and that Jesus becomes. “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.” I wish the translators could use a different word than fear, which in English has all sorts of negative connotations that it doesn’t really mean. Better would be: his mercy is for those in awe of him from generation to generation. We might fear that we are not good enough, but we are in awe of the Creator of all things.
The Gospel today is John’s version of the story that we read from Mark’s earlier Gospel last week, and staying true to John’s very metaphoric and symbolic Gospel, he presents Jesus as ‘light’. Later on he even has Jesus say that he is the light of the world. John the Baptist’s job is to give testimony that Jesus is the light, the Messiah. The gospel writer presents John the Baptist using the words we read last week in Isaiah, and John describes himself as the one crying in the wilderness begging people to make straight the path for God. He again states that his baptism is just a symbol of the washing away of sin, but there is someone coming who will actually wash away sin, and who is so great that John is almost a nothing in comparison. The two versions, though written many years apart, are very complimentary.
So how can we apply this to our own lives this week. I would ask you this week to concentrate on being in awe of God. Think of creation, nature, beauty, art, and face the realization that God is over all these things. He really is, to use the phrase of many today, “awesome”! In appreciating the things of God, the wonders of God, the enormity of God and his universe, we might seem very tiny and insignificant. But, then realize that God really cares for each and every one of us –
he goes after the one lamb who has strayed. We just need to repent, turn around and he will be there. So rejoice always, as Paul says, and keep in mind the really wonderful season we are almost through, as we await and awaken to that light that we remember each Christmas day, and that we await to lighten our lives again when Jesus comes in glory.
Our mission as brothers and sisters of Christ and members of his Church is to reflect Christ’s Light to others, just as the moon reflects the light of the sun. It is especially important during the Advent season that we reflect Christ’s sharing love and his unconditional forgiveness. There are too many people who live in darkness and poverty, and who lack real freedom because of their evil addictions and bad choices. There are others who are deafened and blinded by the cheap attractions of the world. Many others feel lonely, unwanted, rejected, and marginalized. Let us bring the true Light of Christ to illumine the lives of all these brothers and sisters during this Advent season through our sharing love, overflowing mercy, unconditional forgiveness and humble service. We will be able to accomplish this witnessing mission of radiating Christ’s Light only by repenting of our sins, asking God’s pardon every day and renewing our lives by our daily prayers, by frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation, by attending and taking part in the Eucharistic celebration, by reading the Bible daily in meditative, prayerful fashion and by performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy where we see these are needed.
May God Bless you.