Reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent by Sister Stephanie Dolyniuk
Rejoice in the Lord Always
On this 3rd Sunday of Advent, we hear invitations throughout the Liturgy readings to rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near, this is wonderfully appropriate. We know “Gaudete” in Latin, means rejoice.
The first reading from the Prophet Isaiah tells us that the desert and the dry land will bloom and be filled with flowers. We are told that ‘our God is coming to save us.’ So, we have every reason to rejoice and be happy. The second reading from the Letter to St. James asks us to wait until the Lord’s coming to ‘be prayerfully patient, as a farmer waits for a bountiful crop.’ We continue to wait for our Savior’s coming. The days grow brighter as we light the third candle. We are rejoicing because our Savior’s arrival is near.
In last Sunday’s Gospel, we heard John the Baptist proclaim a new and radical message from God. Some who heard him greeted his message gladly. Others, perhaps, felt too challenged and refused to listen to him. In our Gospel this Sunday, John is in prison. From his cell, he hears what Jesus is saying and doing. He sends his own followers to Jesus to ask if he is the one the people have been waiting for.
Jesus did not give a straight answer. He asks John’s friends to tell him what they see themselves. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are healed, the good news is proclaimed to the poor and even the dead raised to life.
This is the kingdom that Jesus came to establish and these are the signs of the kingdom. It was the rich, the powerful, and those in authority who could not, or would not, welcome Jesus. Perhaps he was a threat to them. Like John, it was the poor who welcomed Jesus. It was the blind who saw him. It was the deaf who heard him, and it was the lame and the crippled who followed him. They were never threatened nor afraid of Jesus.
The Jesus that came to the deaf, blind, poor and crippled in the Gospel, is the same Jesus that comes to us—not only at Christmas, but every day of our lives.
The overall message of our Advent readings call us not to just believe. We are called to be authentic. We are called to walk in mercy and forgiveness. We are called to bear witness to Christ by justice, word and deed. There are too many people who live in darkness and poverty who lack real freedom. There are others who are deafened and blinded by the cheap attractions of the world. All these people are waiting for us to reflect the Light of Christ. Like John the Baptist, we too, are chosen to bear witness to Christ Jesus, the Light of the world. God invites joy to overflow in us. Some might say how can we rejoice when we look at the state of our world. How can we be glad with the massive gun violence, poverty, war, and so much devastation in our world – Covid and abuses. Like John the Baptist, we are invited to look at our Lord and all His works in our chaotic world. In the midst of darkness, there is the light of His grace. In the midst of hopelessness, we are called to remain steadfast.
The third Sunday of Advent gives us the opportunity to prepare in our hearts the holy anticipation for the celebrating of the birth of Jesus as well as to prepare our hearts for his second coming. We must all be ready to meet him when we are called.
The question is: “How do we prepare for the coming of the Lord?”
Why were the two prophets, Isaiah and John, selected to give the message of the birth of Jesus? It was because they had a deep, personal relationship with God. Who knows how many other people God approached who were too busy to listen. Too busy worrying or just being content in their lifestyle.
But Isaiah listened to God. He studied the Scriptures. He knew that God is a faithful God who would not abandon His people.
The prophets are people who listen. It means listening with what St. Benedict calls “the ear of the heart.” The ear of the heart hears the voice of God above the voices of the world. It hears the voice of hope in the midst of despair. The voice of calm in the midst of fear. The Biblical prophets listened with the ear of their hearts.
People thronged around John the Baptist. Why? Because he gave them two things: first, hope that the Messiah they longed for was about to come; second, he gave them a way to prepare for the Messiah’s coming. REPENT.
Repent means to turn around—to change direction. It means we are not perfect. It was good advice then and it’s good advice now. We all need to examine our lives—to be ready at all times—most importantly—what is my relationship with God? How do we carry out His message among ourselves?
In our world now, we can listen more for the messages of peace than of war, in our cities, for the voice of justice, and mercy over the voices that divide us.
Listen with the ear of the heart, Isaiah and John remind us. In Advent we wait, we listen, we hope. And when Advent comes, we rejoice, we sing, we praise.