Third Sunday of Advent: Gaudete Sunday, Rejoice!
By Fr John Allen Green OFM
Third Sunday of Advent – Year B: 2017 – Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11, Responsorial psalms Luke 1:46-50, 53-54, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, John 1:6-8, 19-28
Today is Gaudete Sunday; Rejoice Sunday! It is a day for considering all that we as Christians and specifically as a Christian community can rejoice about.
John the Baptist was a big deal of his day with many influential followers throughout Galilee, within Jerusalem and further across the Roman Empire. Beyond priestly status, he carried himself with the austerity of the Prophet speaking truth without fear or favour. He spoke with audacity and conviction before kings, soldiers, tax collectors. The ordinary people recognised that he spoke with authority, honesty and integrity and their hearts were lightened; joy replacing their doubts and fear. Even beyond death and the destruction of Jerusalem, his influence was strongly felt.
Even as we assembled today his voice an admonition speaks to us. Somebody stands among you who you do not recognise. Jesus, the Messiah, Jesus the light of the world stands before them but they do not see; cannot see.
“Nobody sees anybody truly but all through the flaws of their own egos. That is the way we all see …each other in life. Vanity, fear, desire, and competition; all such distortions within our own egos; condition our vision of those in relation to us. Add to those distortions to our own egos the corresponding distortions in the egos of others, and you see how cloudy the glass must become through which we look at each other. That’s how it is in all living relationships except when there is that rare case of two people who love intensely enough to burn through all those layers of opacity and see each other’s naked hearts.” ― Tennessee Williams.
They have been waiting with longing and anticipation for this day to come, but they do not recognise the reality before their very eyes. John is sent as a witness, to speak of the encounter with the Christ while still in his mother’s womb. To tell of the light so that everyone might believe through him. Only from an encounter with another, can such witness be made; by this witness I also can come to that sweetness to experience and recognise “God with us”.
But first I have to let go of my own vanity, fear, desire, competition and all other distortions that cloud my vision. It is said that our minds hold us captive to our own illusions. It is as though an entire committee were having a meeting inside my head. All of the members talking at the same time; judging and condemning; choosing those images that best fit with our own illusions.
This is the blindness that is bolstered by our own opinions; opinions that are strengthened by refusing to look at reality. And so we also do not recognize the one among us.
Let us still our minds, letting go of illusions, so that we too may see Reality and experience the Truth.
Meditation: Be still and know that I am God…
From our conscious awareness of reality and truth, we experienced God who is Love. This experience of love, leads us into gratitude; and out of this gratitude flows our joy as Christians.
St Paul admonishes us in the same way as the communities of Thessalonica and Ephesus: “Be joyful always, pray at all times, be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants of you in your life in Christ Jesus. Speak to one another in the words of the psalms, hymns, and sacred songs; sing hymns and psalms to the Lord, with praise in your heart. Always give thanks for everything to God the Father, in the name of our Lord ‘Jesus Christ. May you a/ways be joyful in your life in the Lord. I say it again, rejoice!. .. Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe, in Christ Jesus.”
This is however not a cheap joyousness without responsibility. It’s a joy that is found when people discover and carry out their true mission in life. Isaiah speaks of one anointed and sent to bring good news to the oppressed – words that were adopted by Jesus to describe his own life’s purpose – just as they should also be made real in the life of every Christian.
This is the good news that each and every one of us share in. The grace that is the Cross of Jesus in which converge evil, justice, forgiveness and love. As a Christian community we are privileged to share in Jesus’ spiritual life and so must also share in his concerns and desires.
I think there are two distinct ideas in today’s readings that go well together. One is the spiritual joy that marks the Christian faith that we are waiting for the coming of the Lord, and our entry into a life of eternal communion with God.
The other is the willingness to bear our share of the Christian work-load, to do our bit, in our time, to realise the goals of Jesus in our world. This is a melding of our contemplative and active lives; Martha and Mary in balance.
Reasons to be Joyful
In these times of state capture, economic austerity and crime that are endlessly debated, there is no harm to be reminded ourselves of the blessings in our lives, our reasons to be joyful;
o the love we share with our family and friends,
o the pleasure of new beginnings,
o The freedom of overcoming an Unhealthy attachment,
o the solidarity we feel With all those who suffer injustice and intolerance;
o the consolation to be found in prayer, meditation and contemplation.
John the Baptist prepared the way for the Anointed One and pointed him out. Today John is the model for every one of us: we are called be prophets in our world; we are called to bear witness to the Christ; in the wilderness of human greed, injustice, and falsehood we are called to make known the cause of our joy who is Jesus, the Christ.