Isaiah 61:1-2A, 10-11, First Thessalonians 5:16-24, John 1:6-8, 19-28
To rejoice literally means to show and feel so delighted about something that happened or something that is going to happen. This is when something causes us great joy. So today which is the third Sunday of Advent, the Church invites her children to exceedingly rejoice because the coming of the Messiah is near.
Today is the 3rd Sunday of Advent and known as Gaudete Sunday. Today begins our anticipation of the joy that resonates at Christmas. In the previous Sundays, the readings centred on how to welcome the Lord. In those readings, the church tells us to be vigilant and to prepare through prayers, repentance, penance etc but today, the church asks His children to turn their faces with smiles and dance in the rhythm of joyful songs because the coming of Jesus is already near. Therefore today’s readings tell us the reason to rejoice, the nature of this joy and how to participate in this moment of joy.
Time to Rejoice Again
1. To understand the first reading, let us go through the background of the readings to find the meaning it tries to convey. This part of Isaiah is one of the post-exilic writings in the book of Isaiah. After their exilic experience in the land of Babylon, the Israelites were faced with the task of rebuilding their cities again. They expected a time of rebuilding and peace, but instead, they again were faced with opposition from their neighbouring towns which later caused the project to halt. (Nehemiah 4-5).
2.These problems created a crisis of faith among the people and many began to question if God can’t save them again. From Isaiah 59, Isaiah tries to answer these questions that God’s arm is not too short to save but it is because of their sins that it looks as if He is. Then in the midst of these turbulent times, there was a midpoint break to a message of hope. It is no longer a time of suffering but a time to rejoice because God has remembered His people.
3. Isaiah 60 tells them to arise because their light has come (Isaiah 60:1), it is time for their hearts to swell with joy again ( Isaiah 60:5), foreigners will now serve them and anyone that will not, must perish (Isaiah 60:7-12).
Then the reading of today continues with the announcement of the good news that is to come (Isaiah 61). There are now glad tidings for the poor and the broken-hearted. It is no longer a time to ponder over suffering but a time to rejoice because the time of salvation is near.
Therefore today, we also observe the same interpolation. From the beginning of the Advent season, we are told to fast, pray and do penance, but today our joy has to begin because the King is coming.
The Reason to Rejoice
1.Something must make someone happy and joyful. There is always a reason to be delighted. The readings of today give us the reason we have to be cheerful. It is no longer a time to ponder over what happened or what is happening to us but a time to be happy because our salvation is near.
I remembered what happened in one of the places I worked. It happened that this community has not seen electricity for many years. When the governor visited the town and promised them that there must be electricity again in the town in the next three months to come. Wow, there was a dancing spree. Motorcycle riders roam the streets celebrating the announcement. There was great joy in the town. Then comes the question, can the coming of Jesus also give us joy? Are we truly happy that we are celebrating the source of our salvation? What truly makes us exceedingly happy? Can the presence of God do the same?
2.In the first reading and the gospel, the church tells us the reason to rejoice. There is a cause to rejoice because the Person who is coming has some good news to the poor. He comes to heal the brokenhearted and repair their hearts again. He is coming to liberate the captives and give freedom to those imprisoned by sin, problems and challenges. His coming will bring favour from God to the people and hence becomes a jubilee year which is a time of liberty and restitution for the people. He is coming to vindicate them and give them victory over their challenges and enemies.
3. Isaiah says in the first reading, that he heartily rejoices because, at this point, God will clothe us with the garment of salvation. The power of sin we have no power over us again. And in Luke 4:21 Jesus affirms that today the prophecy has been fulfilled with His coming. Therefore, we can now approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16). John tells us to prepare for Him because He who is coming is mightier than He is. At the mention of His name, great things begin to happen (Phil 2:10).
The Nature of this Joy
1.This is not a type of joy that is motivated by circumstances happening around us. Isaiah says that this is a joy that comes from the Lord. We rejoice because of what God does and is going to do for our souls. This is a joy that comes from our relationship with God and not from material wealth or lack.
2. This joy must come from the heart. It is when we are truly happy and joyful. It is not merely having fun, dancing and shouting, but the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit.
2. In the second reading, St Paul says that this joy must be always. Whether good or bad. This is a call to be joyful even in the deepest of affliction. If we know what awaits us, we would not worry about anything. Instead of dying in worry, Paul tells us to rather pray unceasingly. The second reading says that When we do this, we fulfil the will of God in Christ Jesus who wants His children to give Him thanks despite the circumstances. In Acts 16, Paul and Silas give an example of what it means to give God thanks despite how seemingly bad the situation is.
1.The coming of Jesus was heralded by John the baptist. The gospel says that His life is to testify to the Light so that people will believe in Him. The gospel here stresses that John’s coming is to strengthen the faith of the people and points them to Jesus who is the light of the world (John 8:12). When they try to question Him, John clarifies to them that He is only a voice in the wilderness telling people to make straight the way of God.
2. When Jesus was born, the angels rejoiced singing “glory be to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of goodwill”. In essence, This joy will truly echo in the hearts of men who become living witnesses of the gospel, those who accept the words of John to strengthen their faith in God. They know that problems cannot rob them of this inner joy. They are those whose faith in God is so strong. This joy will truly resonate in the heart of those who listened to the voice of the church all these while to prepare, be vigilant, go for confession, turn away from sins, live a life of prayer and thanksgiving etc.
3. So to truly feel this Joy that comes from the Holy Spirit, we have to be baptised by the One who is coming to dwell in our hearts. When He truly dwells, we can learn to live for God and nothing more. We thus feel this joy that comes from our relationship with God. So to participate, we have to be authentic witnesses of the gospel.
1. Today simply tells us that there is a time for everything. Life is full of opposites both good and bad. Do not worry as if your life will end in worry, there is surely a time to rejoice again. This is a call to live our lives in the hope and expectation of God’s favour. Do not lose faith in God totally despite the challenges at hand.
2. Today tells us to rejoice in something that is yet to come. We have not seen it but we know certain that it will come. This is a sign of faith in action. It is like the condition of Hannah who in 1 Samuel 1 goes to the presence of the Lord with tears but when Eli promises that all shall be well, she left with joy without feeling downcast again ( 1 Samuel 1:18). Hence we do not allow conditions to limit our faith, but like Paul and Silas, let us rejoice in God always and give Him thanks whether good or bad.
3. Today is also a call to live for God and with God. This is when God is the centre of everything we do. We go close to Him at this moment and make sure that nothing limits our relationship with Him. Let nothing steal our joy and confidence in God. Like John, let us become living witnesses and bring others to Him.
4. As the Messiah is coming to bring freedom, restoration and healing to the people, the season of advent also advises us to be the same to the people around us. God may have put you in someone’s path to wipe away his/her sorrow. Many people need that little thing you can offer at this time. Let us be a solace and help to them at this time.
5. As the Lord is coming to free us, we have also to free ourselves from the burden of sin and go for confessions. There is this joy that comes to the hearts when the burden of sin is taken away from us. It is also a call to free ourselves from the prison of unforgiveness. Many families today are living in dissensions and long family discord. The best gift we can give to ourselves this month is peace, love and forgiveness. Let every family use this time and unite together again. It is a time to be joyful and not a time to quarrel over nothing.
May God help us and give us that inner joy that comes from the Lord always. Let us rejoice in the Lord always. So, remain inspired and be blessed.
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