GAUDETE! REJOICE IN THE PRESENCE OF THE MESSIAH

A Reflection by Fr. Kingsley for the 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A.
Isaiah 35:1-6,10 – James 5:7-10 – Matthew 11:2-11.

Gaudete! Rejoice! On a day like this, the Church calls us to rejoice. Why this theme of rejoicing? We are all waiting in hope for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas. Having made it halfway through Advent, it is important that we look forward to the joy of the coming feast and nurture that hope of joy. The mid-way point of Advent is when we take stock of our journey to Christmas and when we rejoice to see the coming glory of the birth of Jesus Christ.

The invitation to rejoice is found in the 1st reading:  ‘Let the wilderness and the dry-lands exult, let the wasteland rejoice and bloom…let it rejoice and sing for joy.’ Why rejoice? Because we shall see the glory of the Lord. This is the glory that Jesus brings into the world at Christmas, at His Nativity. This glory serves as both spiritual anaesthetic and therapy; for, where pain and sorrow, depression and dejection, sadness, hatred and anger cause injury to the soul, His glory removes the pain and wounds, restores our joy and makes us fruitful. That’s why Isaiah sent words of encouragement to the fearful: “strengthen all weary hands, steady all trembling knees,” he said, “and say to all faint hearts, ‘Courage!’ Do not be afraid. Look, your God is coming… He is coming to save you”. Many, many people feel broken-hearted! Just imagine how many people long for the coming of Christmas and for the joy it brings! I tell you, this joy is because of the Christ, The Son of God, who is at the epicentre of Christmas. It is Jesus Christ Himself who is our reason for rejoicing.

Joy of restoration. We rejoice as did the Israelites, who were waiting for the Messiah. Isaiah prophesied that the presence of the Messiah would give us reason to rejoice. He said, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, then the lame shall leap like a deer and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy…. They will come to Zion shouting for joy, everlasting joy on their faces; joy and gladness will go with them and sorrow and lament be ended.” Jesus used Isaiah’s description of the Messiah’s presence to describe the fruits of His own mission to John the Baptist. John, the forerunner of the Messiah, was suffering in prison and having doubts. Jesus said, “Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor; and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.” Praise Jesus, for sending such reassuring words to John in his brokenness. Happy are we too when we do not lose faith in Jesus in times of adversity. Happy are we, when we find in Christmas the Christ who comes to heal each one of us of pain, sadness and sorrow.

Joy through faith. Think about the person of John, the precursor of Jesus: he baptised Jesus and saw the Holy Spirit descend on Him (John 1:32). Even before Jesus’ baptism, which was to fulfil all righteousness, John declared that it was Jesus who supposed to baptise him [John] (Mt 3:14,15) because he had already seen the glory of God in Jesus. John had pointed out Jesus to his own disciples, and had said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). It was John the Baptist who was asking in the gospel, “Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else?” What pain and sorrow John must have endured. The point is that having faith that the Messiah is with you and close to you personally changes everything. So, just as John was reassured that he might have joy, Jesus reassures all of us of His glory so that in all things we may rejoice. Sometimes, we may feel we have toiled in vain, sometimes we may face the bitterness and ugliness of earthly life, but Jesus is convincing us by His coming that our preparations are not in vain – there IS meaning to our lives, no matter how things tend to turn out; there IS meaning to our lives, no matter the confusions and uncertainties we face; there IS meaning to everything about our lives. His assurance gives us genuine reason to rejoice and be filled with deep joy.

Being an instrument of joy. We can bring this Good News to the sorrowful and the doubtful. The question arises, “How can we convince people who doubt the presence of Jesus in their lives?” I believe it is by letting the work of Christ be seen in us. So in Advent, we prepare to do that work of Christ in others at Christmas. Where Christ helped the blind, the lame and the lepers, and restored them to a joyful existence, we can let ourselves be used by God to restore joy to the lives of those we meet who are suffering.

Adopt the farmers’ patience – work for joy and be joyful. In the 2nd reading, St. James urges us to be patient.  “Be patient, brothers, until the Lord’s coming.” When Jesus comes, many things will become clearer, both about the mystery of Christ and also about our individual lives in the Kingdom of Christ. I love the beautiful description of the patience of the farmer. We know very well that analogy of a farmer’s patience – how he patiently waits for harvest, while preparing and toiling every single day to get the best out of it. Let us exercise patience similarly in joy while we prepare for Christmas, when we shall receive the fullness of joy and happiness.