The Third Sunday of Advent

Today’s readings

Today is Gaudete Sunday.  Gaudete is Latin for “rejoice,” reflecting the first word of the entrance antiphon for today which says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.  Indeed, the Lord is near.”  On this Sunday, we take a break from the somber tones of purple and put on the more festive color rose to symbolize that in the bleak winter days of Advent, we have reason for joy, and that joy is the hope of our coming Savior.  The Lord is near!  Rejoice!

We can see that rejoicing in our readings today. The prophet Isaiah starts the rejoicing in today’s first reading.  He rejoices that the Lord, having anointed him for service, is using him to work out salvation and justice.  To a people as long oppressed as Isaiah’s hearers were, this message would indeed be welcome and cause for great rejoicing. In the second reading, Saint Paul gives the Thessalonians very specific instructions about how they are to conduct themselves.  And the first instruction is that they should rejoice.  Rejoicing is the natural way for Christians to behave because they have in their presence the cause of all joy, Jesus Christ our Lord. In our Gospel this morning, Saint John the Baptist clearly points out the source of his joy: “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.” 

Truly, there is no greater occasion for joy than being in the presence of our Lord, and having him present in our lives. We should indeed rejoice and always be glad because our God, who created us and gave us a  place in his glorious universe, has chosen to come to earth as a tiny child, to be one of us, in the most intimate and vulnerable way possible. That’s why we bless the Bambini from our mangers today: we recognize the source of all our joy.

Another great cause for our joy, indeed the cause for our joy, is that our God, who has seen us walk away from him and pursue things that are not him, will not allow us to be abandoned in our sinfulness. Seeing the sadness of sin and death, our God does not want them to be the end of our story.  And so that’s why he came to us, to live for us, to die for us, and to open for us the way to salvation.  That way of salvation includes the sacraments which lead us back to God when we have gone astray.  Today we have available the last opportunity for confessions here after the 12:15 Mass.  We have thirteen confessors scheduled to celebrate the sacrament with you in English, Spanish, and Polish. If you have not yet been able to go to confession before Christmas, this afternoon is the time, and I hope to see you there. Please be there at 1:30 so we don’t miss you.

Finally, we have to be the joy that our world needs right now.  There is so much sadness in our world today.  So we have to be witnesses to God’s love and presence all around us.  We have to show that our God is great and mighty and faithful and loving and glorious and forgiving and healing and more awesome than anything we can possibly imagine – and we have to do that by the way that we live our lives, by the words we say, by the things we do.  If we want the world to find the joy that Christ is in our lives, then we have to live that joy – choose to live that joy – right here and right now.

Brothers and sisters, we are witnesses to joy.  “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.  Indeed, the Lord is near.”