Third Sunday of Advent

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Reading:  John 1:6-8, 19-28

A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.

And this is the testimony of John.
When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests
and Levites to him
to ask him, “Who are you?”
He admitted and did not deny it,
but admitted, “I am not the Christ.”
So they asked him,
“What are you then? Are you Elijah?”
And he said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
So they said to him,
“Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?
What do you have to say for yourself?”
He said:
“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘make straight the way of the Lord,'”

as Isaiah the prophet said.”
Some Pharisees were also sent.
They asked him,
“Why then do you baptize
if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?”
John answered them,
“I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”
This happened in Bethany across the Jordan,
where John was baptizing.

Reflection:

Whoa!   Wait a minute! I’ve just about gotten used to the constant itching and scratching from wearing burlap undergarments and the digestive malaise brought about by a diet of locusts and wild honey. So much so that I could even author a locust and wild honey cookbook!

I sneaked a peak at tomorrow’s Gospel and the first sentences are— “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.” That sounds a lot like Christmas to me.

What is going on here? Is today the last day of Advent? Is it over? No, not at all. Today is Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is a Latin word which best translated means “Rejoicing.” Today we will light the rose-colored candle on our Advent Wreath and, if your parish has rose colored vestments, you priest may choose to wear them today. They are a symbol of the great joy in our realization that the Messiah has already come.   Today is the last day of Advent that we will participate in the Old Testament yearning and pining for the coming of a Messiah which John proclaimed would soon come to an end. Why? Because Christ has already come in our midst.

Today is a pivotal point in our Advent journey. The light goes on in our heads! Up until now, we have focused on that distant, future coming of a Messiah. In our 21st Century setting in time, we have translated it as our yearning for the fulfillment of God’s Plan with the second coming of Christ in glory to gather all to God’s Reign. Yes, the second coming. Beginning tomorrow, our readings set into motion the recollection of the story of the first coming of Christ at Christmas. Today is a turning point in our Advent journey. It truly is a joyful Sunday.

If we thought that our focus on John the Baptist these past 3 Sundays was to emulate his diet and wardrobe as mainstays of our Advent penitence, we missed the mark.   We need to remember that Advent is two-fold. It is a walk down memory lane as we remember, reflect and reinterpret. We have remembered the Old Testament sense of spiritual wandering while grasping on to the prophetic promise that we are not abandoned. What was yearned for is already in our midst.

Gaudete Sunday is the pinnacle of Advent. The remaining focus of our Advent journey shifts to our recollection of just how God touched history and sent salvation to us; His beloved ones. Christmas. So, if you’ve been trying to be just like John the Baptist, shed your burlap wardrobe, push away the plate of locusts and sneak a Christmas cookie from the tin.   Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel!

– Fr. Paul Gulya

Action

Think of someone or a situation where you perceive there is a sense of abandonment, loss of direction or an absence of hope. It might be someone in a nursing home or hospital, an addict, someone struggling financially, someone grieving, a single parent, an outcast…you get the picture. Show them God’s kindness as you have known it. Bring them joy. A call—a card—a Christmas Carol—a gift—a visit. Help them to know hope, know they are not forgotten. Free them to look forward to and welcome Christmas. Give them the gift of Gaudete Sunday.