While we were still using Latin, the third Sunday of Advent was called, Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday. The name derived from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord, always, I shall say it again: rejoice!” And we are told why we should rejoice: “The Lord is near.”
The Gospel presents John the Baptist preaching the good news which does not sound like good news at first: “If you were a sinner, “Stop,” says John. “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed, stop extortion, stop accusing falsely. In other words, stop your sinning. And besides, giving up sinning.” John continues his preaching, telling his listeners to do good: “Whoever has two cloaks, share with the person who has none. If people are hungry, feed them.”
The Christian is to follow Christ’s example of giving to the poor, speaking the truth, feeding the hungry. Luke provides the source of the energy to do good and to avoid evil: being baptized stamps the mark of the Holy Spirit on us; we are given the grace, the energy, the help to do good and stop doing wrong.
After studying and praying the readings, we know the “Rejoicing” is not about putting lights on trees, receiving gifts or gathering our family for dinner. These are symbols and results of our joy, the heart of which is Jesus Christ. Today, let’s reflect on the gift of the Word made flesh and God coming to earth and sharing his divinity with us.
1) It is the habit of many Christians to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation during Advent. If your tradition does not have that sacrament, try making amends with someone with whom you have had a quarrel.
2) “Whoever had two cloaks should share.” Clearing out your closet of the “extra” clothes you might wear someday could provide very essential clothing for someone else.
3) Finally, set aside some quiet time to ponder the meaning of this verse for you: “The Lord God is in your midst; he will renew you in his love.” (First reading: Zeph. 3:4-18a)