The Third Sunday of Advent – 17th December, 2023.
Lectionary Readings: Is. 61:1-2. 10-11: Ps.Lk.1:46-54: 1Thess.5:16-24: Jn.1:6-8. 19-28
Theme: Rejoice in the Lord!
Today is Gaudete Sunday, the name derived from the Latin meaning ‘rejoice’ for it is during this season of Advent that we read the prophecy of Isaiah (61:1-3) which speaks of the coming of the Messiah which causes us to rejoice. These prophetic words announce the glorious coming and ministry of the Messiah. This very passage is the one Jesus read in the synagogue at Nazareth and then stated, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Lk.4:21). He is the one on whom the Spirit of God is upon and who now begins his work of preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God.
In today’s Gospel our focus is on the primary witness to Jesus, that of John the Baptist. He was a voice which spoke to a discouraged people and announced that the Messiah has come and will heal and restore that which is broken. He clearly stated that he was not the Messiah but a prophet preparing the way for the Messiah (Jn.1:23). John announced that the Savior whom they seek is already among them but yet not recognized. John’s role was to make straight the way (Mt.3:3). Just as in ancient times when a king visited a city, the path was made straight and as level as possible. John testified to the light that came into a darkened world. (Jn.1:7-9)
Joy and hope are the distinguishing marks of the season of Advent. We place our trust in God who is our source, our all! Joy is not just a feeling or an optimistic outlook. It is an expectation of something desired, a deep delight in what we hold most significant. St. Augustine stated that joy is born of love. Love is the cause of joy. Scripture reminds us, “Go eat your food with joy and drink your wine with a happy heart for God has approved what you do.” (Eccl.9:7) “You have enlarged the nations and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as a people rejoices at the harvest.” (Is. 9:3) We discover joy in a variety of ways, doing the things we love to do, caring and providing for others, growing in intimacy or pursuing our values.
What inspires hope in us? Is it not God’s promises? The greatest gift from God is being true to his promises. Our entire life as a believer is based on hope. Why do we pray?….because of hope. Why do we witness?…because of hope. Why do we endure trials and hardships?…because of hope. We have the confidence that God hears us. The psalms express our every mood, care and desire. “You are my refuge, I have put my hope in your Word.” (Ps.119:114)
We experience many challenges in our lives especially when situations seem to overtake us. They can be so overwhelming that we seem to be without hope and can actually move to despair. At the moment we are in the midst of many crises throughout the world – Ukraine, Israel, Gaza, South Sudan and countless others. It is difficult to have hope when there is so much darkness in our daily lives but we must not let the darkness enter our hearts! In spite of the violence and the killings, we need to recognize the many acts of goodness that happen daily all around us, in hospitals, in the distribution of food, in housing displaced persons, in speaking out against unjust systems, in demonstrations and numerous other ways. Goodness will overpower the evil. Our God is a God of hope!
As we come closer to the celebration of Christmas, we focus on the Incarnation and its meaning. The Son of God took on human flesh and dwelt among us, “Emmanuel, God with us!” ‘He dwelt among us’ means more literally ‘pitched his tent,’ an illusion to God’s dwelling among the Israelites. We pause in silence at this great mystery: God’s Son took on our humanity identifying with our human experience. God’s love, compassion and selflessness are visible in his Son. In a homily Pope Benedict XVI affirmed, “Advent, this powerful liturgical season invites us to pause in silence understanding a presence. It is an invitation to understand that the individual events of the day are hints that God is giving us as signs of the attentiveness he has for each one of us.” (Nov.28/09)
For Reflection and Discussion: The Incarnation holds the promise of personal transformation and renewal. When we embrace the message of Jesus, we experience a spiritual rebirth. Bibliography: Mueggenborg, D.H., Discipleship Reflections on Sunday Gospel Readings, (England: 2016), Vatican Basilica, Liberia Eclitric Vaticana, (Vatican Basilica: 2009)
This week’s Commentary was prepared by
Rita Kammermayer, Canada, Bat Kol Alumna: 2001