THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT
This Sunday is called “Gaudete” Sunday — it is the Sunday during advent in which we rejoice of course we are supposed to rejoice on every Sunday as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus in our liturgies. The rejoicing we are talking about today comes from the today’s readings, and it underlines an important point. In the Gospel, we hear John the Baptist telling different groups what to do – they must repent, and change their lives. We might think of this as a rather joyless thing – something which is hard and unrewarding. In many of our Churches this weekend we will light the pink candle and the president/presider may be wearing rose or red colored vestments. The message of this Sunday is one of repentance that is repentance in order to change our lives so we are really able to welcome Jesus and this is something richly joyful as we make our Christmas Preparations. When we are planning to welcome anyone to our homes, we set about cleaning and preparing for their visit with enthusiasm – nothing is too much trouble for someone we care for greatly. Even scrubbing the bath or polishing the furniture can be a happy and joyful thing yes you did read scrubbing the bath! The message of this Sunday is that preparing to welcome the Lord – even though it may involve hard work – is something joyful, because of our love for Him, and His love for us for great in our midst is the holy one of Israel.
A sensible way to prepare for Christ’s arrival is to learn from the example of other people who have prepared well while they awaited his arrival. There are many such examples in the Bible and John the Baptist is one of the most striking. John’s preparation for the Messiah’s arrival was characterised by his preaching. He preached a message of hope and repentance to dejected people whose land was occupied by foreigners, who were often exploited by their religious leaders and who had become spiritually enslaved to sin. John also fasted and did penance in preparation for the coming of the long-awaited Messiah and he urged other people to do the same.
John learnt that the only way to become disentangled from sin is through repentance and conversion. Thus his preaching focused on the urgency of repentance and he reassured the people about God’s providential care and complete fidelity towards them even when, at times, they were unfaithful and sinful. They could be certain that God’s promise to send the Saviour would soon be realised. We are asked to emulate John’s example by being people who are repentant for our sins. We are invited to encourage other people to become repentant too. We cannot truly meet Christ as he comes into our lives each day unless we are without sin because it imprisons us and prevents us from recognising him. Nowadays, people have lost their sense of sin and the damage it can do to the individual and our communities.
Many people mistakenly think that sin does not exist and as we all know SIN certainly exists in our modern world. Many people presume that they can do whatever they wish and as we know all our actions have consequences. In effect, God gave us free will so that we can choose good instead of evil. In addition, the Church’s teaching guides us in our beliefs and practices so that we can prepare adequately for eternity with God. There is so much in our lives in these days of instant communications to make us anxious worried and afraid. Anxious and worried about the present times and afraid of the future but we have to remember in him that is in God in whom we live, and move and have our being nothing is impossible. I know that there is a great spirit of rejoicing for many people for many reasons all over the place whilst there is also a spirit of fear and trepidation for many more in these uncertain times. Let us remember as we continue our daily lives not to be anxious about anything the Lord is very near to us as we journey along our pilgrim path. So then let us rejoice in the Lord, not in the world; that is, rejoice in faithfulness and not in iniquity; rejoice in the hope of eternity and not the brief flower of vanity that is part of our daily lives. Rejoice wherever we are for the Lord is very near: do not be anxious about anything our hope and our salvation are at hand. Let us go forth in peace and joy to meet the Lord when he comes.