Gaudete Sunday, the traditional name for the Third Sunday of Advent, is taken from the entrance antiphon “Rejoice (gaudete) in the Lord always, again I say rejoice. The Lord is near” (Phil 4:4:5) which reflects the spirit of Messianic Joy. The rose colored vestments worn by the priest reflect the joyful change from the more restrained theme and vestment color (purple) of the first two Sundays.
It is that anticipatory joy that we find in the prophecy from Second Isaiah in the passage that is echoed in the Gospel, “Here is your God… he comes to save you, then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.” (Is 35:5-6) As Christians, our witness should be of Messianic Joy guarding against becoming joyless heralds.
In the second reading, James tempers the joy with a call for patience, “Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord.” (Jas 5:7a). He uses an image very familiar to people of the land, “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.”(Jas 5:7b) James also reminds his readers that patience should be accompanied by consideration of others “Do not complain…about one another, that you may not be judged.”(Jas 5:9a) We are reminded of the words of Pope Francis who reminds us that God “is not a ruthless judge, but is like the Father in the Gospel parable of the Prodigal Son” who surrounds us with mercy, tenderness and forgiveness.
The Holy Father cautioned us against false messiahs of which there were many in Jesus’ time. In the final reading Matthew recounts John the Baptist’s caution in sending his disciples to inquire of Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?” Jesus replied with the words of Second Isaiah, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the Good News proclaimed to them.” (Matt 11:3-5)
Finally in another reference to false prophets, Jesus points out to John’s disciples and the gathering crowd that the prophesied Messiah will not wear fine clothing and live in royal palaces. One cannot but hear the reminder from Pope Francis in these passages that we must be a “poor church for the poor.”
Thus we continue our Advent journey in joyful and prayerful anticipation of the coming of the Lord.
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