We begin the third week of Advent. The readings today invite us to rejoice at the rebirth of Jesus in our lives as we prepare for the celebration of the Nativity of our Lord. The third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called Gaudete Sunday, which means “rejoice.” The opening antiphon for Mass today begins with the phrase: “Gaudete in Domino semper,” or “Rejoice in the Lord always.” Today we light the rose candle on the Advent wreath, and the priest may wear rose vestments. Gaudete Sunday is the perfect opportunity to express our joy in the coming of Jesus as our Savior. The readings urge us to make preparations as we await the coming of Jesus in our hearts and lives.
The first reading comes at a turbulent period when the Chosen People were trying to re-establish themselves in their homeland after enduring a generation of exile in Babylon. The prophet Isaiah says of himself that God has anointed him with the Spirit and sent him to bring good news to those in need of it. The good news consists of the healing of the broken-hearted and the liberation of prisoners. Then the prophet expresses Israel’s joy at the coming of God’s salvation, using the image of wearing exceptionally beautiful clothes, as a bride and groom do at their wedding. Isaiah also uses the image of the earth in its bringing forth of new vegetation in the spring. He says, I rejoice heartily in the Lord; my God is the joy of my soul. This hope for the coming of salvation finds its fulfillment in the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus.
Paul had great admiration for the Thessalonians because they received the Gospel enthusiastically, and their commitment to the Gospel helped others to embrace the Faith. However, he was convinced that they needed the continued moral instruction which he offered them in this letter. The second reading is a practical suggestion for anyone trying to be a follower of God: “Do not stifle the Spirit, or despise the gift of prophecy . . . test everything and hold on to what is good and shun every form of evil.” He also commands them to rejoice always and pray without ceasing. We are to give thanks in all circumstances, because that is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus. We, who believe in Jesus and have been united with him in his death and Resurrection, should be in a constant state of rejoicing, giving thanks to God for all that He has done for us in Jesus.
The Gospel tells us that John the Baptist came to bear witness to Jesus as the Light of the World. The Baptizer wanted all Jews to rejoice, because the long-expected Messiah, as the Light of the World, will remove the darkness of sin from the world. We rejoice at the humility of John the Baptizer who tells the Sanhedrin who challenged Him that he was unworthy even to become the slave of Jesus the Messiah. We also rejoice in the sincerity and commitment of John who spent himself completely in preparing people for the long-awaited Messiah. We therefore have an additional reason to rejoice because, like John the Baptizer, we, too, are chosen to bear witness to Christ Jesus, the Light of the World.
Like John, we need to bear witness to Christ the Light. Our mission as brothers and sisters of Christ and members of this wonderful parish community is to reflect Christ’s Light to others. It is especially important during the Advent season that we reflect upon Christ’s unconditional love and 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 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 illuminate the lives of all these brothers and sisters during this Advent season through our sharing of love, overflowing mercy, unconditional forgiveness and humble service. We will be able to accomplish this witnessing mission of radiating Christ’s Light by opening ourselves to God in prayer during this season of Advent. Let us rejoice in the Lord for giving us this opportunity to know, experience and bear witness to the Light, Jesus Christ. How and where do we do it? In the words of Mother Theresa, do simple things with a smile; that is, start in a simple way, and start where we are.