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Reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent

                                                           THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT

This is the third Sunday of Advent.  The church through the readings of today calls us to rejoice.  Even the penitential liturgical purple softens to rose.  In what are we to rejoice?  We are to claim and rejoice in what God has already done in us and for us.  Isaiah in our first reading gives us an example when he says, “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me.”  Isaiah has searched his soul.  He knows and celebrates who he is and what God has done.  We, too, have been anointed – in baptism we were claimed for God, in Confirmation we were strengthened by the gift of The Spirit, and many of us have been anointed and graced in the Sacrament of the Sick – and sometimes over and over.  Rejoice!  We know who we belong to.  Isaiah tries to describe his experience.  It is like he can’t hold it back. He tries to put words where there are no words, no adequate description, so he tries by expressing: “I rejoice heartily (not just a little bit) but heartily in the Lord.  In my God is the joy of my soul: for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels.”   Wow!  That is lavish.  And all of us can search deep down and utter that same cry.  We have been called, chosen, blessed – over and over if we look back at our 30, 50, 70, or 90+ years.  How can we adequately express what God has done for us? 


In the responsorial psalm we have the words of the Magnificat that we pray every evening of the world.  Mary knew who she was as she exclaims, “The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”  She goes on to say, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”  This is to be your prayer and my prayer.  Do we really reflect on and know this experience from our head to our toes?  Have we searched our life to exclaim this with Mary, “The Almighty has done great things for me?”   and to really mean it, to rejoice in it as she did? 


In our second reading Paul tells the Thessalonians “The one who calls you is faithful.”  Paul knew from his own experience and from his heart, that faithfulness.  Do I really know this deep down HOW God calls me, keeps calling me as I look back over the course of my life?  What has God called me to at each stage of my life?  Our call within our Benedictine call changes and unfolds as time goes on.  Some of us once called to teach or work in some capacity outside the monastery are now called to a ministry of prayer – to pray the news for example, or to hold in our heart the requests on our prayer board, or to feel the pain of Ukraine, the Holy Land or Africa or of the refugees trying to reach our borders… and called to simply to sit at the feet of Jesus as Mary did. 


John the Baptist in our Gospel today knew who he was and he knew his call.   He is quoted, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert.  Make straight the way of the Lord.”  John could articulate that with great certainty.  He knew that he was “sent to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty of the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord.”


What is your current call?”  What or how is God calling you today, December 17, 2023? 


The second reading today is full of advice for us: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.  Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise prophetic utterances.  Test everything.  Retain what is good.  Refrain from every kind of evil. And in all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”


Today we are called to claim and to rejoice in our call, in who we are, who we have become and are becoming in God.  We are called to rejoice with Isaiah, with John the Baptist, with Paul, with Mary

and with the whole church.  So let our soul rejoice in God - for the Mighty One has done great things, and Holy is his name. 


Sister Nancy Gunderson