Christ the King Catholic Church
Today is the Third Sunday of Advent and it is called 'Gaudete Sunday'. 'Gaudete' is a Latin word for 'rejoice'. We rejoice because Christmas is near. If you have any doubt, just look at the faces of the children among us. Christmas is just ten days away. Christmas falls on Wednesday which means that the Fourth Week of Advent is only three days long. Christmas is coming and the Church calls her children to rejoice.
The theme of rejoicing comes from the Entrance Antiphon to today's Mass. Before the Second Vatican Council there was an antiphon that was sung in Latin by the choir at the beginning of Mass, at the Offertory and before Communion. In most places those antiphons once sung by a choir have been replaced by the Entrance Song, the Offertory Song and the Communion Song sung, in our case, in English and by all of the congregation. The Entrance Antiphon for the Third Sunday of Advent was taken from Saint Paul's Letter to the Philippians in which he tells us, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near."
We also need to remember that in an earlier time Advent lasted much longer than four weeks. During the Middle Ages Advent begin on November 11, the Feast of Saint Martin, until Christmas Day. It had a much more penitential tone than today. During the weeks of Advent people prayed and fasted and made sacrifices in preparation for Christmas. After four weeks of prayer, fasting and sacrificing, the Church celebrated Gaudete Sunday as a reminder that Christmas was near. It was an invitation to 'lighten up' a little. Even the purple of Advent is changed to rose on this Third Sunday of Advent.
We have the privilege of reading from the Letter of James in today's second reading. James wrote a beautiful letter in which he speaks with his characteristic plain-spokenness. He calls the people of his day and the people of our day to await the coming of the Lord with patience. Just as a farmer is patient after planting the seed and awaiting its growth, so, too, we must patiently await Jesus' return. And as we await that return, we should live our lives without complaining, without judging one another, because the true judge, the only one who can really read the
hearts of men, is coming. In fact, he is standing at the gate. Our salvation is nearer than when we first began.
In the first reading and the Gospel we have a common theme of the scriptures during the Advent season. The first reading speaks of a promise and the Gospel speaks of the fulfillment of that promise.
Isaiah speaks to the children of Israel at a low time in their history. They find themselves in exile. They had turned their backs on God. They had forgotten the God who had led them from slavery in Egypt to the land promised to Abraham and his descendants. They had flirted with the false gods of the Canaanites. God had to find a way to get their attention and so he used the Babylonians who conquered the Chosen People, destroyed their capital and led the leading citizens into exile.
And once he got their attention, he used the Prophet Isaiah to speak a word of hope and a word of promise to a disheartened people. God promises his people a savior. Amazing things will happen when that savior comes: the desert will bloom with flowers, the knees of the weak will be made strong; the blind will see, the deaf shall hear and the lame will walk. For almost six hundred years a remnant of the Chosen People kept this hope alive.
And now fast forward to today's Gospel. John the Baptist has been arrested by King Herod and placed in a dungeon. He had had the audacity to call Herod's marriage to his brother's wife what it was - adultery. That audacity cost him his freedom, and, ultimately, it would cost him his life. From his prison cell, he sends his disciples to Jesus to ask him the question, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?"
And how does Jesus respond? He tells John's disciples to report the things they have seen and heard: the blind see; the deaf hear; the lame walk and the dead are raised." Jesus responds to John's question by pointing to the very signs that Isaiah had said would signal the coming of the Messiah. Those signs are fulfilled in Jesus.
John the Baptist, the prophet who was given the great privilege of pointing out the Messiah when he would at last come, is a central figure of Advent. He calls us to prepare for Jesus' coming by reforming our lives. The question he poses in today's Gospel is a question to which we must all give an answer. "Is Jesus the One, or are
we to look for another?" We know that many people in our world today have grown impatient and have lost hope. No longer looking for Jesus to return, they look for other saviors. We see that search in the restlessness of our world today.
But if Jesus is the One, what does it mean for our lives? In the Old Testament the promise is made. In the New Testament the promise is fulfilled in Jesus whose birth we will celebrate with solemnity and joy in just a few short days and whose second coming we patiently await with joyful hope.
For those who recognize Jesus as the One, the Church tells us on this Third Sunday of Advent, in the words of Saint Paul, "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say rejoice! The Lord is near."