Reading: Isaiah 35:1-6A, 10
The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.
Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
they will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.
Gospel MT 11:2-11
When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
“Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“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.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”
As they were going off,
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John,
“What did you go out to the desert to see?
A reed swayed by the wind?
Then what did you go out to see?
Someone dressed in fine clothing?
Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.
Then why did you go out? To see a prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
This is the one about whom it is written:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way before you.
Amen, I say to you,
among those born of women
there has been none greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete: Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice. The Latin words from the introit for this third Advent Sunday give this Sunday its name: Gaudete Sunday. Many parishioners will ask, “Why is the priest wearing pink?” First, the color is not pink but rose, not that that makes a lot of difference! More to the point is the significance of the color. Advent’s liturgical color is purple. White, as a liturgical color, symbolizes joy, as when we celebrate Christmas and Easter. On this Sunday we are invited to experience the joy of anticipating the coming of our savior. White, when added to Advent’s purple, yields the rose color (okay: pink!) of this day. But this Sunday has more significance than a mere color change.
Advent’s four weeks of preparation corresponds with the hectic preparations and commercial bombardment many of us experience in our culture’s mad dash to Christmas. It is easy to get caught up in the culture’s focus on consumerism and setting out decorations. Advent invites us to live this time from a different perspective.
As Catholic Christians, we are invited to step away from the culture’s hustle and bustle and to make Advent’s four weeks a time of intentional prayerful spiritual preparation to celebrate our Lord’s coming among us. We are to be, in a word, countercultural. Gaudete Sunday’s call to rejoice is an invitation to see Advent as a countercultural time.
How can we, as Catholics, be countercultural amid our consumerist society? Use Advent as a time to get closer to those you love: your spouse, children parents, and others in your family you may not have spoken to in awhile. It’s nice to think of and anticipate giving them gifts but take time to see in each of them – even the difficult ones – the gift they are to you and rejoice that God has given them to you as a gift.
Take a few moments each day to rejoice in the ways you are and can be a gift to others: your family and friends, your neighbors and coworkers and even the strangers you encounter each day. Make time to see and appreciate the little things that remind you of God’s presence in your life: the beauty of nature, the wonder of friendship, the peace of quiet time, and Christ’s eucharistic presence at Mass. In these rejoice: they are reminders that the Lord is near.
Advent is a time of renewal and growth. It is a way to fulfill Isaiah’s admonition to “strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, [and] say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!”
As we await his coming in glory, Christ comes to us not simply as a babe in a manger long ago but also in the person of others we encounter each day. As we see Christ in them, rejoice, be strong, fear not and know that the Lord is near.
Good and gracious God, in all times of our anxiety and confusion, of distraction and haste, may your Spirit’s presence guide and protect us, bring calm and peace amidst confusion and despair, and strengthen us in our weakness that we may have the grace to see you ever-present in the world around us, in those most dear to us and in those whose presence challenges us most: that in them we may know your humble presence and rejoice that you are always near. We ask this in the name of him who humbled himself to become one of us and whose coming we await with joy, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Rev. Fr. Joseph Harmon
Pastor, The Oratory of St. Thomas à Becket