Homily for 3rd (“Gaudate”) Sunday of Advent, Year B

Rejoice, But Do Not Lose Focus of Your Destination!

Readings: (1st: Ish 61, 1-2.10-11: Ps {Lk 1, 46-54}; 2nd: 2 Th 5, 16-22: Gos: Jh 1, 6-8. 19-28)

          This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

“I exult for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God; The Almighty works marvel for me, Holy is his name”(Ish 6, 10-11; Luke 1, 49). Like a sojourner who seats by a fresh stream while looking at his destination across a valley, today we seat to be refreshed by God while joyfully looking at our salvation which is close at hand. Today is the Church’s and our response to that call of prophet Isaiah last week (2nd Sunday of Advent): “Look, here your God is coming with power”. We are doing this with the sight of our destination in full view.

The third Sunday of Advent is a Sunday of joy (Gaudate), because it provides us with the season and moment of refreshment for the rest of the journey ahead. Having come thus far in our journey, therefore the Church says to us as the prophet Nehemiah said to the Israelites: “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Neh 8, 10). This is of course with the hope that we do not lose focus of our destination. This should provoke the feeling of great joy my dear friends, and this joy is what we celebrate today. However, it suffices to note that this is not the end of the journey. There is still one week and a couple of days separating us from our final destination. The likely temptation today is for us some of us to presume that we have arrived. My dear, we have not arrived, it is not over until it is over. So, after today we must continue our journey with the feeling of a new zeal, fully re-energized and re-empowered.

In our first reading today, Isaiah busts out in Joy as he experienced the divine presence and hand of God tremendously at work in his life and mission: “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for the Lord has anointed me to…” This is a song of joy and satisfaction of one who has been fully empowered, and for what the Lord God of Host has done. This Sunday, like Isaiah, we should sing this same song because we are being filled with, and by the Spirit of God who energizes us for the last phase of our preparation and journey this Advent. In appreciation of what God has done for us so far especially on this joyful Sunday, we must pause and say like Isaiah and Mary: “I exult for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God, for he has cloth me with the garment of salvation…” This is the great joy that Gaudate Sunday provokes; the joy that our salvation is near, that we have been empowered by the Spirit of God to take hold of it, and to make it known to the whole world.

Our second reading is an explicit exaltation from Paul to us especially on this great and joy-filled Sunday of Advent: “Be happy at all times, pray constantly, and for all things give thanks to God…” In this brief exaltation of Paul, we find a wonderful progression. First, it is an exaltation to be happy, joyful and cheerful for the journey so far has been so good, and because, the Lord God of host has refilled, re-energized and empowered us to take hold of our salvation. Second, it is an exaltation to be thankful to God for the journey so far. This is because, “If the Lord had not been on our side (Ps 124, 1), the enemy would have pursued and overtaken us. If the Lord had not been on our side, we would have been no where today! Third, it is an exaltation to “Pray constantly,” to be careful, watchful, vigilant, and in fact, not to lose focus of our destination. Hence, Paul warns us thus: “Never try to suppress or treat the gift of prophecy with contempt.” This is because doing this would be tantamount to refusing or denying the authenticity of what has long been foretold about the birth and the coming of the Messiah to us. This is dangerous and will definitely be counter-productive for our salvation and the efforts we have made so far in our journey this season of Advent.  Therefore, for Gaudate Sunday to be truly meaningful it must provoke a great feeling of joy and thankfulness, while still strongly preserving and keeping us focused on our journey and duty this glorious season of Advent.

Once again, today our gospel revolves round the prophecy and clarion call of the “Prophet of Prophets”, John the Baptist. The major difference between today’s gospel and that of last week rests simply on the fact that they are accounts from different writers Mark and John. Possibly also, because Mark’s version (as is characteristic of his gospel) is shorter than John’s which includes the description of the person of John the Baptist and his discourse with the Pharisees. Apart from these, the message and the clarion call remains basically, functionally and ontologically the same. It is still from: “The voice that cries in the wilderness, Make a straight way for the Lord.” Why is this reading and call being repeated this joyful Sunday, could it be that we did not hear it well last Sunday? Well, if we say it is because, “variety is the spice of life”, we might be a bit correct. However, I do not think that none of the former or even the latter (alone) is the reason. We must note that whenever words and statements are repeated in the bible, in any other literary writing, or even in any circumstance of life, it is for the purpose of laying strong emphasis.

Repeating this gospel and clarion call of John the Baptist after exalting us to be joyful in the first reading, psalm, and in the second reading is not an accident or a mistake. It is rather, an act and the manifestation of the wisdom of the Holy Mother Church who cares for her children. It is here again to remind us that, though we are given a little time today to relax, refresh and rejoice, the clarion call is still sounding as loud as ever: “Make a straight way for the Lord.” In order words, we are not done yet with our preparation. Repeating this clarion call (though from a different version of the gospel) is highly significant because it is a way of keeping us alert so that we do not lose focus of where we are actually heading to: “ It is  NOT Christmas  yet!” It is a way of reminding us that the joy of Gaudate Sunday is only but a tip of the iceberg, and a foretaste of what the fullness of our joy will look like on Christmas day, when we shall embrace Christ – the Cause and Fullness of our Joy.

Finally brethren, as we rejoice today, let us be mindful of, and say a loud amen to the prayer of Paul, who knowing full well that we are still on a journey sums up his exultation to us with a prayer of commendation and hope: “May the God of Peace make you perfect and holy, and may you all be kept safe and blameless…for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ…God has called you and he will not fail you.” Surely, he will not fail us until we have seen our salvation and experienced the fullness of our joy who is Christ the King of Glory.  Surely, he will not fail us because: “All the promises of God in him are Yes, and in him Amen, to the glory of God …” (2 Cor 1, 20).

Peace be with You!

Maranatha!!

 

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