Third Sunday of Advent
Reading 1 IS 61:1-2A, 10-11
Responsorial Psalm LK 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54
- (Is 61:10b) My soul rejoices in my God.
Reading 2 1 THES 5:16-24
Alleluia IS 61:1 (CITED IN LK 4:18)
- Alleluia, alleluia.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
Gospel JN 1:6-8, 19-28
Homily—December 16 & 17, 2017 3nd Sunday of Advent
Today is Gaudete Sunday meaning rejoice as we quickly march through Advent. This year we have only a week of Advent left! We wear rose colored vestments and light the rose colored candle.
The first and second readings today proclaim a message of joy. Scholars tell us that the Book of Isaiah is a compilation from at least three different authors who lived in three different eras. That shows us a little of how our scriptural tradition builds on itself. Key stories and passages are reworked from one age to the next to shed light on how God is active in any given moment of history.
By saying that the spirit of the Lord has come upon him, Isaiah is talking about the state of his heart and soul. For Isaiah, God’s command is not simply an outside authority demanding obedience; the love of God has inhabited him.
The second thing Isaiah says about himself is that God has anointed him. This type of anointing signifies a vocation in the sense of being given a commission. To be anointed is to be sent in God’s name.
Two characteristics of a genuine prophet are 1) will be carrying out God’s will, primarily on behalf of the marginalized, the poor or brokenhearted, the captives, people who are hopelessly indebted and 2) the person who is of God will exhibit the joy that comes from knowing that the love of God is the ultimate driving force of the universe. While there is much to do, there is never a reason to despair. The person in touch with the spirit of God within her or himself will know that their task is to be part of preparing the way for the God who will institute justice and joyful praise among all people.
Joy is not the same as pleasure, which is a momentary feeling of satisfaction that comes from something external (a great meal, an unexpected gift, a romantic encounter). Joy is deeper, more spiritual, and it bubbles up from within.
The story is told of a Russian countess who accepted the Lord Jesus as her savior and testified about it openly. The czar was displeased and threw her into prison. After 24 hours, the czar ordered her brought into his presence. He smiled sardonically and said, “Well, are you ready now to renounce your silly faith and come back to the pleasures of the court?” To his surprise, the countess smiled serenely and said. “I have known more real joy and more real happiness in one day in prison with Jesus than I have known in a lifetime in the courts of the czar.
In the gospel we hear about John who came to testify to the light. Light is a symbol that entranced biblical authors of every period. Human eyes are extraordinarily sensitive to illumination. Unlike many animals, human eyes can adjust to see well at twilight and high noon. We can also train our eyes to function in abnormally bright or dim light. People who live in desert and polar regions can see through a midday glare that would blind anyone not accustomed to it, and many indigenous dwellers in the tropics hunt successfully even in the semi-darkness of a rainforest floor.
Writing around the year A.D. 200, the early Christian scholar Origen recorded some thoughts on today’s Gospel passage that played on the sensitivity of human vision. The light that John speaks of in today’s Gospel is the teaching and example that Jesus left us. When individuals believe in Christ, model their lives on him and follow his commandments, they learn everything they need to love God and neighbor. This model and teaching is the light Jesus Christ offers.
Origen reminds us that just as human eyes will adapt to bright light, a life spent following Christ increases the capacity to live out his teaching. This realization lies behind this week’s second reading too. “Do not quench the Spirit,” St. Paul tells us. A life spent listening to and following the Spirit prepares us in “spirit, soul and body” for the arrival of Jesus Christ.
In the era before modern navigation, the stars guided lost sailors home. If we let Christ’s light shine through us, we can be a similar beacon for so many who wander. This is how we can testify to the light today. If we let Christ’s light shine through us, we can be the stars they follow. Are you ready to shine with Christ light?