We come so quickly to the Third Sunday of Advent, from centuries past it has been called “Gaudete Sunday”, the Sunday for rejoicing. Many would say because this time of penance and preparation before Christmas is half over. In more recent times the emphasis is more correctly placed on rejoicing because we are more fully prepared for the joyous celebrations to come at Christmas.
The line I have placed at the top of my words today is taken from the first scripture reading for this Third Sunday of Advent, a passage from the prophet Isaiah. That line goes one too say why Isaiah rejoices so heartily, “because the Lord has anointed me: He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted. To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners. To announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by your God.”
All of this has its fulfillment when our preparation through prayer and reflection, some penance and good works, gives itself over to the joyous celebration of Christmas, for that is when the work of our salvation becomes more visible and spoken more boldly in the words that the Savior Jesus will speak in His ministry, and more visibly in the healing and good works that he will perform for all those He will encounter. What more reason do we need for rejoicing ‘heartily’ as we read the lessons of today’s scriptures and reflect on their powerful meaning for us.
Each year there are three central figures that are presented to us in the Advent season: one is John the Baptist, often called the last of the Old Testament prophets and the first of the New Testament prophets. Second: is Isaiah the writer and proclaimer of our first reading today, the one who calls us to bring alive the spirit of joy within us. Third: is Mary who will be the central figure of next Sunday’s readings when we will again be given the beautiful story of the Annunciation.
Each of these Sundays in Advent has its own special significance in these Advent figures and offers us a theme we might use to center our prayer and reflection on this day and perhaps even in the days of this particular week of Advent. Advent always seems to have to compete with the secular deluge of the material side of Christmas. It started a number of weeks ago when parents and children were excited about Halloween, and then the coming feast of Thanksgiving. All of this has its own particular place but I always find the days of Advent as the most special. Well, that’s me, I just love the quiet call that invites me to sit back and reflect on the great mystery of God’s love enfolding around us.
I read a book each year during Advent, on0th e I have read several times before, it is entitled “The Reed of God” by Carryl Houselander a 20th century mystic. It’s a book of reflections on the place of Mary as she prepared herself for the coming great event that would happen in her life: the birth of the Savior. Next week I will write a line or two from her book. I hope you will find it rewarding.
I pray you are continuing to have a blessed Advent.