THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT – GAUDETE SUNDAY (2022)
We should immediately see the difference between the tenor of this third Sunday of Advent, “Gaudete” (Rejoice!), and the previous Advent Sundays. There is no urgency as there was in the earliest letters of the New Testament, those to the Thessalonians, where your preparations for the Lord’s coming were so urgent that it caused people to abandon working. Today’s reading from James, written much later than Thessalonians, sets the tone of ‘patience,’ a patient waiting for the Lord’s coming. There is the subtle suggestion of a lapse of time, a time when there will be hardship, and their models are to be the prophets who suffered greatly for being the messengers of God.
Our Advent prophet, Isaiah, speaks of what will happen when the Lord comes: the desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom; the splendors of God will steady feeble hands and firm up weak knees; to those who are frightened or fearful, God will reassure to be strong. There will be joy and gladness!
The timing of this Gaudete Sunday could not be better for those of us living in Southwest Florida. Can we truly rejoice after the ravages of Hurricane Ian, when so many have lost so much? What we celebrate liturgically in this Advent season is meant to seep into our troubled and burdened lives, and remind us of what is most important. The Lord whose birth we look forward to celebrating on Christmas has “come to save us.” It is the Lord who will sustain us, and at the end of time, when Jesus comes again in glory, He will summon us to live with Him and all the saints in His eternal kingdom where He lives and reigns forever.
John the Baptist is more than slightly curious about this itinerant preacher, Jesus, and he “has heard in prison of the works of the Christ.” John wants to know if He is the long awaited Messiah, “or should we look for another?” Jesus mimics Isaiah by saying to John’s disciples: “Go and tell John what you hear and see; the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” The Messiah Jesus is known by His works, not by any status held among the religious leaders of His day. It is His works that define Jesus, and cause us to know that He is the real Messiah deal.
We too are called to preach the gospel during times of difficulty, to rejoice in acknowledgement of our redemption. The Christmas story is no pleasant fable that is meant to make us feel good. It is a life changing event with a universal call to holiness that causes us to share our faith with others, to change their lives for the better, to want for all our brothers and sisters what God wants for them. As we draw closer to the day of Christmas may we open our hearts wide, and with rejoicing may we proclaim the good news that causes others to rejoice in the way God desires them to rejoice.