Third Sunday Of Advent, Year B.
Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11 – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 – John 1:6-8, 19-28.
On the Third Sunday of Advent, the midpoint of this penitential season, the Church calls us to look ahead and begin to rejoice. This Sunday is called ‘Gaudete Sunday’ when we are called to ‘rejoice!’ because at last we can see our way clear to the joy of Christmas. Having toiled to clear away all the obstacles preventing us from seeing the glory and splendour of the Immanent God approaching, we can begin to rejoice and be glad (Ps 118:24) for the Lord is near (Mk 1:15). The long-awaited Messiah, the Saviour will be born for us at Christmas. He is our God whom no one can take from us. I rejoice because I can feel His presence in and around me. You and I have a vocation to fulfil, which is to carry in us the joyful hope of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, both at Christmas and at the end of time, and to radiate that hope to other people. We are meant for heaven (Jn 14:2f). We are created for God’s delight, to serve Him in this world (Eph 6:7ff). Things can be heavenly in this world, and they can be hellish. The Christian life is not only about sadness and sorrow, difficulty and pain (all of which Jesus endured during His earthly ministry), but also about joy. Exulting in the joy of the Lord, St Paul tells us in the 2nd reading, “Be happy at all times; pray constantly and for all things give thanks to God because this is what God expects you to do in Christ Jesus”. Let us rejoice and be glad. The joy that comes from our sacrificial Christian experience is long-lasting and far-reaching. In the course of His preaching to His disciples, Jesus told them, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (Jn 15:11). This is the intention for which I am praying on our behalf today… that the joy that Christ bestows upon us as His followers may be complete.
In the 1st reading, Isaiah speaks of the joy of salvation which infuses and enhances the lives and mission of all those who love God. Isaiah prophesied about the joy that results from God saving His people through the One on whom His Spirit dwells. It is the joy that comes from the Good News of our divine healing, liberation and restoration to a relationship with Him. When the Lord who comes to us, He heals our broken hearts and frees those trapped in adversity. God clothes each one of us in the garment of salvation and wraps us in the cloak of integrity.
People tend to make the great mistake of equating joy with pleasure, and when they do that, they look for joy in the wrong place. It is possible to purchase pleasure (it is costly in several senses) and material things give fleeting happiness, but all the money in the world cannot purchase joy. Christian joy is something experienced in the innermost part of oneself, in the soul, and it is a joy that is infinitely deeper and richer than that expressed in a grin on a happy face. Christian joy comes from the awareness and conviction that God is indeed with us. Once experienced, it produces an inner peace that cannot be taken from us. Friendship with God is the source of Christian joy. No earthly trials can drown this joy since it is born out of faith. Joy is a characteristic of the soul that cannot be adequately described to someone who has not yet experienced it, but nonetheless it should be evident in the life of every believer.
One facet of this joy is ‘the joy of witnessing to Christ’. In the gospel reading, John the Baptist expressed that joy as he was preaching about the One who was coming after him. While the priests and Levites sent by the Jews were asking John who he was, John was replying about who he wasn’t. John’s focus was on proclaiming the Christ. When we ask ourselves who we are, the answer is that we are citizens of heaven. There is a special joy that comes from making Jesus Christ the focal point of our lives, from making Him the centre of everything that we are and that we can be. John the Baptist understood that the best definition or description of his personal identity was inseparable from the grace and the power of God working in him. You and I can have that same joy when we think less of ourselves and more of Christ (Jn 3:30), when, like John, we focus our energy on witnessing to Christ in our thoughts, words and actions. Even in his mother’s womb, John recognized Christ’s greatness and danced for joy (cf. 2Sam 6:14ff) before the Ark of Our Lady bearing the Law, the Priesthood and the Eucharist in the Person of Christ.
Like John the Baptist, we need to have Christ as the central focus of our lives and to witness to Christ in order to experience genuine joy. We cannot reflect the Light who is Christ if we live by values that differ from those of the gospel. The most joyful people on earth are those who are doing most for others for the sake of God. They know from experience that it is in giving that we receive (Ac 20:32ff), and that it is in serving others that we become great (Col 3:24).
God is the One who reached out to us with the gift of His Son (Jn 3:16) and who served us (Mk 10:45). Let us serve one another (Jn 13:14) through our witness to Jesus and His gospel. Don’t allow daily problems to hinder any of us from the joy of witnessing to Christ, who is the personified joy of our salvation. Remember, as we look ahead to Christmas, that our joy is incomplete unless we make a point of witnessing to Christ through our love of other people and through our generosity towards them. May your joy be complete as you become like John, pointing the way to Jesus Christ, the joy of our souls. Amen. God bless you.