December 13, 2015 — Third Sunday of Advent
“Shout for joy!” With that exclamation our First Reading from the prophet Zephaniah begins. We are told to “Sing joyfully” and to “Be glad and exult” as well. St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians proclaims, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” Why are we so joyous? St. John the Baptist explains it in our Gospel Reading from St. Luke: “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.” Indeed…the Lord is coming, and soon, and that is why we are called to “Rejoice” on this Third Sunday of Advent which is called Gaudete Sunday by the Church. Gaudete means “Rejoice.” Even our Responsorial Psalm includes “Cry out with joy and gladness.”
Christ came among us, and that is why we celebrate Christmas with such a sense of delight. The prophet Zephaniah also declares, “…the King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you have no further misfortune to fear.” There should be something comfortable about the coming of Christ, His birth on Christmas. We may get caught up in challenges and sorrows which are part of our lives, but the point of Advent is for us to prepare for the incredible Christmas gift of Jesus Christ. Today is a day which reminds us of that. The First Reading reminds us that God sings, too, because of each of us. The image of God singing is not one we have very often unfortunately; however, that is our Lord completely. He sings over and because of us; He feels joy which we provide, so that He breaks into song. At least that is what we need to be striving for — that is what our preparations for Christmas should mean to Him.
St. Paul’s joy that he proclaims and encourages us to share in the Second Reading is also based upon the presence of Christ. We speak often of stewardship, of a way of life where people give of themselves, of what they may have, their time, their talent, and their treasure, out of love and a sense of service to others. It is said that stewardship people are happy people, people who have a strong sense of trust in God, and who view things in a positive way. That is what Paul wants us to do as well. Paul tells us “Your kindness should be known to all.” The Greek word which Paul used for “kindness” was epieikeia which can be translated as patience, a softness of heart, modesty, forbearance, a magnanimous feeling toward others. That, too, is what our Advent preparations should reflect. They should prepare us for what is in reality the Christmas Spirit, a true sense of elation reflected in how we live our lives and how we treat others.
When asked what we should do, St. John the Baptist in the Gospel says in effect that we should share; we should treat others with respect and justice; we should not be spiteful or nasty. Are these not the same things we try to teach children? Sometimes when we get older, and bit more callous, we forget that this is the attitude we are expected to have, the way to live our lives as Christians and Catholics. Now, Advent, is the time to make that conversion, that change, that repentance. As John indicates, we have been baptized by the Lord with “the Holy Spirit and fire.” The Lord has the power to transform us. Advent, the time right now when the coming of the Lord is imminent, is the time to allow Jesus to change our hearts and to help us be the disciples He wants and loves.