THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT December 14, 2008

Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 John 1:6-8,19-28
The third Sunday of Advent presents the theme of Joy. It is the rejoicing that the Lord is coming and there is hope in the heart of every person that the Lord is close at hand. The first word of the entrance hymn today is “Rejoice!” And so this Sunday has come to be known as “Gaudete Sunday”, from the Latin word Gaudete meaning you rejoice. And why should we be rejoicing? Because we are soon to remember that the Son of God, Jesus the Christ, came to live among us as a human being and be one of us. Yet the liturgy does not keep away from the theme of Advent namely to prepare for the coming of the Lord. The Gospel of today focuses on John the Baptist, the Advent Prophet. This is the person who is totally faithful to the mission given to him by God. His job is to point to Jesus Christ the Messiah. He does it as the lone voice from the desert asking people to mend their ways and be converted and later he baptises them.
In today’s First Reading, God speaks to us through Prophet Isaiah. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.” In these Words, we hear those of the Lord Jesus who was sent by God the Father for the salvation of mankind. “He, God the Father, has sent Jesus to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” The Heavenly Father sent His only begotten Son Jesus to bring the good news regarding the approach of the eternal Kingdom. Jesus came to proclaim liberty to the captives, to release the prisoners and the Heavenly Father sent His only beloved Son to reclaim the Heavenly Kingdom. In God’s love, the brokenhearted once more had the opportunity to inherit the Heavenly Kingdom of God through the Sacraments of the holy Catholic Church. Proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favour, we should all rejoice in the Lord. He has provided us with means to inherit our salvation, not because of our works, but because of His infinite grace.
In today’s Second Reading, we are told to always rejoice, to pray without ceasing, to give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us. We should always rejoice because God has done great things for us as previously mentioned. We should always pray to secure our daily communion with the Lord God. We should always give thanks because all things come from God for the purpose of our sanctification as His children. We should do this in the Name of Jesus because it is through Christ, the only Mediator between God and man, that we receive our salvation.
In this we have the example of John the Baptist who is the focus oftoday’s Gospel passage taken from the Prologue of John’s gospel. We heard that God had sent John the Baptist as a witness to announce the coming of the Light that is found in Jesus Christ.”A man came, sent by God. His name was John. He came as a witness, to speak for the light, so that everyone might believe through him and experience light. He was not the light, only a witness to speak for the light.” We have here a clear assertion of the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus. Jesus is the light and John is a witness to the light. It might be helpful for us to re-read those opening verses of today’s Gospel and replace the name of John with our own name. What it says should be just as true of every baptised person as it is of John.
John the Baptist testified that he was the voice crying in the wilderness, telling all to prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord. Proclaiming a baptism of repentance by water, John testified that the year of the Lord’s favour had now arrived. John also testified that he was not worthy to untie the thong of His sandal of the one who was coming after him. So great was the Divine Presence of the Lord, the King of kings, that John the Baptist felt unworthy to even untie the thong of His sandal.
So, in the middle of it all, people needed to be reminded of what they were preparing for — the very joyful occasion of the birth of Jesus. In the midst of all the penance and fasting today was conceived as a window of joy and brightness in anticipation of what was to come. On this day, too, the violet vestments in many churches give way to a less penitential colour, a pinkish red, a toned-down violet usually described as “rose”.
The Scriptures speak of those who are materially poor, of those who are really rotting often retained unjustly in prisons, those who are physically handicapped — the blind, the lame and those afflicted with diseases like leprosy and those mentally challenged. If the Lord has really come to liberate us from all of this, then we surely have cause to rejoice. “I exult for joy in the Lord…for he has clothed me in the garments of salvation; he has wrapped me in the cloak of integrity.” The coming of Jesus is a promise to all of us of salvation, that is, a real wholeness and integrity in our lives, which is the complete opposite of lives fragmented by fear and the never-satisfied desire to possess.
As the Lord God commands us today through the words of the great Prophet Isaiah, the words of St. Paul speaking to the Thessalonians and the words of John the Baptist in the Gospel of John, we are to prepare ourselves to commemorate with great joy the special year of the Lord’s favour. To do so, we must repent of our sins and change our hearts so that we may once more become righteous in the eyes of the Lord at His coming.
In advent we come to the amazing realization that God calls us like he called John the Baptist, to point to the messiah to every one around us. Advent theme expresses the complexity of the world, the yearning for the light, needing the straight path, waiting with eagerness and expectation for the author of goodness and life. We are then an advent people called by God to testify to the light. We have our share in the straightening of the path and lead people to the light which is Jesus Christ.

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