Hello, friends! Welcome to the third week of Advent. Yesterday was the third Sunday of Advent, and you know what that means… as my childhood priest always said, it’s Pepto-Bismol Sunday!
Okay, fine. It’s actually called Gaudete Sunday (but the robes really do have that Pepto-Bismol color going on). In case you missed your share of rose robes yesterday, here’s a picture of Pope Francis living his best rose-robed life:
Perfect. Now, if you’ve read the readings for this Sunday, we’re ready to begin!
The theme of the third Sunday of Advent is joy. “Gaudete” (pronounced GOW-day-tay) means “rejoice!” in Latin. With this theme in mind, let’s take a look at this Sunday’s readings.
We’ll start with the beginning of the first reading, a passage from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. In the first two verses, Isaiah informs us he has been given a task:
“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication from our God.”Isaiah 61:1-2A
When I finish reading those verses, the first thing I think is, “Wow, no pressure.” God has given both Isaiah and us a daunting task; we have been sent out to do all of these amazing things. How can we possibly even begin to climb these mountains?
In the Gospel, we are also faced with a man who has been given work from God: John the Baptist has been sent to “make straight the way of the Lord.” John has been given the task of preparing for the Messiah. The evangelization of Jerusalem, and the world, begins with and hinges on this man. Yet again, no pressure.
Now let’s take a look at the Responsorial Psalm. If you were paying close attention, you may have noticed something out of the ordinary about this reading — it’s actually from the Gospel of Luke, not the Psalms. Let’s put this reading into context. This is an excerpt from The Canticle of Mary; Mary has just arrived at her cousin Elizabeth’s home and says this Canticle when Elizabeth greets her. Mary, too, has just been given a task — she has accepted her role as Mother of God. While society often looks down upon parenthood as the lesser alternative to working, let’s be real: motherhood is no easy feat. As a parent, one becomes completely responsible for the well-being of another. In motherhood, one gives up part of themselves to care for someone helpless and fragile who doesn’t even yet know who you are. Now add — on top of the usual stressors of pregnancy and motherhood — the fact that your child is literally God Incarnate. Mary has been given the responsibility of raising the Son of God, which is no mean feat, if you ask me. Keep in mind, also, that Mary is estimated to be no older than sixteen when she got pregnant with Jesus. Suddenly, Mary’s task seems even more daunting than Isaiah’s or John’s. Seriously, though — no pressure.
Interestingly enough, however, these readings are not filled with the despair and stress I would associate with facing a daunting task. Instead, there are filled with something completely different: joy.
Isaiah proclaims, “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me in a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice.” Even Isaiah’s tone in professing his task is joyful; how he tells of healing the broken-hearted and bringing liberty to the captives conveys excitement rather than dread. Isaiah confidently compares the earth to a garden full of beauty and life, which is tended by the Great Gardener — one who waters and nurtures justice and praise with love and understanding.
Mary, too, rejoices in her daunting task: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” The entire Canticle of Mary is the Mother of God espousing the greatness and beauty of the Lord — the same Lord who has just set her the difficult task of raising the Son of God.
When we are faced with difficult trials, we often feel discouraged, unsure of where to start, and nearly drowning in the face of what we have yet to accomplish. Why, then, oh why, are these people rejoicing in commissions that are much more difficult than the ones we face in our day to day lives?
The answer is simple: because the request comes from God. God is, by definition, all that is good; when we are asked to participate in His work, we are asked to participate in the essence of goodness. No wonder Isaiah and John and Mary are so joyful! They have been given the opportunity to bring Christ to other people and to carry out in a unique way the providential design of God.
We too are given this opportunity. Often, though, we do not greet it with joy. Instead, we resent spending time in prayer, we’re hesitant or scared to speak of our faith, or we choose to sleep in instead of going to church.
It is not surprising that we fall into this habit of non-rejoicing. If we were raised Christian, we’ve been hearing the Good News our entire lives. By the time we get into our teenage or early adult years, we’ve heard the story so many times that sometimes we don’t stop to think about what it means.
So, let’s take a moment to think about it: The joy of the Good News of Jesus Christ can never be worn out. It only needs to be rediscovered for you to be immersed in it once again.
To save us from our sins, the God of the Universe, of all that is good, humbled himself to become man. He did not have to save us in this way–he didn’t have to save us at all. Yet he still chose to humble himself to become a baby, to become one of us: fully God and fully man. He did this for no reason except that he loved us, and wanted us to spend eternity with him. That miraculous love extended so far that he was willing to lay down his life for us in order to save us from our sins.
And then, defying and destroying our greatest obstacle, he rose from the dead and opened the gates of heaven. He continues to love us and to equip us with the tools to live for him, wrapping us in the mantle of justice and adorning us with diadems and jewels. He desperately wants you to grow in his beautiful, unruly garden of the earth; rejoice in his love, and allow him to water you with the rivers of his truth.
This week, rejoice in your relationship with Christ. He has loved you with an everlasting love; love him in return by rejoicing in your prayer, your conversation, and your evangelization.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article! If you enjoyed it, I would appreciate it if you left a comment or shared it with a friend. Just two more weeks until Christmas!
Rejoice and be glad!