(From the Bulletin of Sts. Joachim and Ann Catholic Church, December 11, 2016)
The Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday)
The joy that fills this Sunday's liturgy is the closest we have to Christmas itself! Today's Entrance Antiphon proclaims, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice. The Lord is near." In the old days, the words were in Latin: "Gaudete, iterum dico vobis, Gaudete ...." And so, this Sunday is still called "Gaudete Domingo." The whole message is one of hope.
Of course, we can get pleasure out of the Christmas shopping, the lights, receiving Christmas cards from people we haven't heard from since last year and preparing a gift for an elderly man or woman and put it under the tree of Love and Compassion. I don't deny that this is a big part of Christmas on the emotional and spiritual levels, this joy is fulfilled when our heart is at peace with our Maker. The upcoming penance service helps us to find that inner peace. St. James tells us that the desert of our despair will blossom again with peace. We're still climbing the mountain of the Lord as we resolved to do two weeks ago. It's when we pray and meditate each day that we find the joy of giving.
In prayer, we let go and let God's Spirit do the work of flooding our souls with His light. In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus assures us that the Father sent John the Baptizer as a messenger to prepare His way. And Jesus praises John as the greatest of the prophets, dressed as he is in rough clothing. His message is meant to shrink our fears and bolster our hopes. It inspires us with joy.
The only legitimate fear we're allowed to cling to is the fear of not appreciating enough what the coming of this Child into the world really means—historically, it was truly an earthshaking event! Nothing would ever be the same again. Sin and darkness fled when the Son of God was born in Bethlehem. Of course, people can—and do—close their eyes to the light, and choose to live without His Light.
Only when we refuse to repent of our sin and hang on to the darkness can we have reason to fear. When John in prison sends emissaries to Jesus to ask if He is really the Messiah, Jesus sends back the answer that He himself is the fulfillment of all John's prophesies. Now the blind see, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the Good News preached to them! John in prison must have been filled with joy at Jesus' testimony about Himself!
Today, we match the joy of the liturgy through our prayer and penance, which includes a good confession before we celebrate the coming feast of Christ's birth. Kipp! Gaudete! rejoice!
Fr. Louis Kemayou, Pastor