Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Third Sunday in Advent, Gaudete Sunday

Dear Fathers, Brothers, Sisters in Christ,

Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10
Psalm 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10
James 5:7-10
Matthew 11:2-11

The joy that fills this Sunday's liturgy is the closest we have to Christmas itself. We're always shocked to see the celebrant process into the Mass this week dressed in rose-colored vestments. Today's Entrance antiphon proclaims, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice. The Lord is near." Back in the day, the words were in Latin: "Gaudete, iterum dico vobis, 'Gaudete.'" And so, this Sunday is still called "Gaudete Sunday." The whole message is one of hope.

But, we say, we don't feel like joy. Even Christmas shopping is more hectic than it used to be. In any case, it's very different from the really deep, serene joy that we look for in vain -- in the world around us.

When, if ever, will we find that joy? The key is found in St. James' advice in today's second reading. He advises us to be patient. There will come a day when wars will cease, and the desert of our despair will blossom again with peace. We're still climbing the mountain of the Lord as we resolved to do two weeks ago. It's when we pray and meditate each day that we find patience.

In prayer, we let go and let God's Spirit do the work of flooding our souls with His light. In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus assures us that the Father sent John the Baptizer as a messenger to prepare His way. And Jesus praises John as the greatest of the prophets, dressed as he is in rough clothing. His message is meant to shrink our fears and bolster our hopes. It inspires us with joy.

Sin and darkness fled when the Son of God was born in Bethlehem. Of course, people can and do close their eyes to the light, and choose to live without His Light. Only when we refuse to repent of our sin and hang on to the darkness can we have reason to fear.

When John in prison sends emissaries to Jesus to ask if He is really the Messiah, Jesus sends back the answer that He Himself is the fulfillment of all John's prophesies. Now the blind see, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the Good News preached to them! John in prison must have been filled with joy at Jesus' testimony about Himself.

The celebrant at mass today has good reason for rose-colored vestments. The liturgy of this Sunday looks forward to a future time of peace that Jesus has promised we will experience! Let's carry that thought with us all week.

Father Ed Bakker
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne