Third Sunday of Advent – 2011
"Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.
Indeed the Lord is near".
Midway through the Advent season, the Church celebrates "Rejoice Sunday" or "Gaudete Sunday" . This invitation to rejoice is found in the Entrance Antiphon and other prayers and readings of today's liturgy. To further emphasise the departure from the "repentance" theme, the purple vestments of Advent are replaced by rose coloured vestments and the rose Advent candle is lit. All of this is intended to heighten the excitement for the holy season we are about to celebrate.
As Christians we understand that our excitement is not just triggered by the commercialized "holiday" season that it has become. We can so easily be distracted by the music, decorations, early visits from Santa and the countless gift suggestions in TV ads etc. No, this is not what "Rejoice Sunday" is calling us to. There is much more to this season! We need to focus on the true gift of Christmas, the Incarnation - "the Word became flesh" - God's gift to us and what a gift indeed !!!! Our real joy and excitement should come from the opportunity to again celebrate the Lord's coming, not the "jolly man in red".
Today's gospel may seem to stray from a rejoicing mood, but actually, it doesn't. The reading certainly helps us better appreciate the significance of John the Baptist. He is described as one who was "sent by God to be a witness to the light so that all would believe through him". Scripture tells us that John lived as a hermit in the desert of Judea and at about age 30 or so, began preaching on the banks of the Jordan. John's message was simple: " do penance and be baptised because the kingdom of heaven is at hand" . God chose John the Baptist to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah.
But the one the Jews were longing for, as John warned them, "is already among you, but is unknown to you." Apparently, the people didn't appreciate this. After all, it wasn't supposed be that way. Their Messiah was expected to descend on them from heaven. Is there any wonder the Pharisees were suspicious of Jesus? The Jews weren't prepared to accept that their Messiah was actually one of their own. We can sense John's frustration when he described himself as "the voice crying in the wilderness."
Now what if John the Baptist were among us today? Would his message be received any differently? Would he still be a voice in the wilderness? But what if the world truly believed that message? Imagine how different our lives, our world, would be.
But wait a minute! Does the world need a prophet like John the Baptist with such "news" ? Haven't we heard that message already ? Problem is, do we truly believe the Lord is in our midst? Today! This minute! Today's gospel should be a pleasant reminder that Jesus is still very active in our world, too. He is present in each one of us. He is with us every moment of our lives. Maybe we forget sometimes because we don't recognize him in the people we encounter and the situations we experience. And better yet, Jesus comes to us, in a very personal way, in the Eucharist . So there is much to rejoice and celebrate today and every day.
May the Lord grant you the grace this Advent to truly get excited about his coming.
- Do you feel called, like John the Baptist, to be a messenger for God? Are you prepared to testify to the world that the Lord is here among us now?
- Are you so caught up in the frenzy this time of year unleashes that you haven’t made time for personal prayer and reflection so as to be spiritually ready to truly celebrate the Lord’s coming this Christmas?
Rejoice in the Lord always......
— Tom and Jo Griffin, Presentation Associates