December 12, 2014

Third Sunday of Advent / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThis weekend, the Church celebrates “Gaudete Sunday,” the name coming from the opening word of the entrance antiphon of the Mass for the Third Sunday of Advent. In Latin, “gaudete” means “to rejoice.” Rejoicing is not indicated because Advent and its stress on prayer and penance almost are completed, but rather because Christmas is nearer.

Another reason for rejoicing is that everyone hopefully feels closer to God as a result of observing Advent with prayer, reflection and penance. If Advent has been followed as intended by the Church, all are nearer to a fuller communion with the Lord, the “light of the world.”

Priests may wear rose-colored vestments on this weekend, symbolizing that the dark violet of Advent is already being lightened by the forthcoming light of the Lord’s arrival in our souls.

The third part of Isaiah furnishes the first reading. When this passage was written, the people of God were weary and, frankly, quite frustrated.

They, or their forebears, had undergone great hardship in Babylon. When finally allowed to leave Babylon to return to their homeland, they understandably were overjoyed.

Returning home, however, they found a sterile and parched land. Want was everywhere. Had God tricked them? Did he provide for their release from Babylon only to subject them to further trials at home? Did God even exist, anyway?

Typically for the last section of Isaiah, this reading glows with optimism. Whatever may be the reality of the moment, a wondrous future awaits those loyal to God. The faithful always have cause to rejoice.

St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians provides the second reading. Impatience to see Christ’s second coming occur was widespread in the first generations of Christianity. This reading clearly anticipates the Lord’s glorious return.

Longing for the second coming among the early Christians is not hard to explain. They had much to endure. Fearful persecution had developed. Christianity was outlawed. The culture all around the Christians was hostile. Temptations to renounce the Gospel abounded.

Paul reassured the Christians of Thessalonica, telling them to be true to the Gospel. God’s goodness one day would prevail.

St. John’s Gospel is the source of the last reading. The reading is a story about John the Baptist, whose own identity puzzled many of his contemporaries. Some assumed that John was the Messiah. Others wondered if he were Elijah, or another prophet who had returned to Earth.

John was very firm in replying to this speculation. Another would follow him. John’s calling was to prepare the way for the true representative of God, who eventually would come. It will be wonderful. John is not worthy even to untie the straps of his sandals.

Reflection

The Church calls us to rejoice, presuming that we have spent the weeks of Advent pondering within ourselves the meaning of salvation for us personally and individually. It presumes that we have sought God and truth in our prayer and in our penance. It supposes our sincerity.

It also presumes that we have increased in our faith in Jesus through this process of prayer and reflection. When the Lord’s kingdom comes, we are prepared to sing, “Gaudete!” “Rejoice!”

We will face obstacles prior to the Lord’s glorious second coming, which we anticipate in Advent. We will be tempted to ignore God, to forsake our resolve to become saints. The Israelites exiled in Babylon and the early Christians in Thessalonica were also tempted. The Lord, however, will prevail. Our patience and determination will not be in vain.

Always the good teacher, always interested in guiding us to God’s presence in the reality of our lives, the Church instructs us in these readings to continue looking for the authentic Jesus and not create our own version of the messiah.

If we have the true image of the Lord in our eyes, we will reject sin. We will find God. †

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