Third Sunday in Advent by Fr. Joseph Tedesco

Isaiah 61:1-2a,10-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8,19-28

It’s Gaudete Sunday. It means rejoice, and St. Paul’s letter gives this Sunday its name. Rejoice always!

So, what is the cause of our rejoicing? We embrace the joy that is experienced in the Spirit’s prompting to create the Christian community. That’s what Paul is writing about to the Thessalonians. We rejoice because now we know our call, our vocation as Christians. To bring Christ to the world, to be a Baptist like figure in today’s world. To be clear about who Christ is for us: our hope, our life and our future.

We have the very Spirit of God, the gift of discernment, of seeking the common good in joy and thanksgiving. But we must go to the question we hear over and over in the Gospel, who are you, so we need to define ourselves clearly so we can fulfill our life and our mission.

When we think about it, the key issue then is to be reconciled with who we are and to be reconciled with our mission as we celebrate the identity and mission of Jesus at Christmas. It’s the time for us to be recreated into love, into Christ, to have a deeper ownership of our true identity as a Christian, one belonging to Christ. And of our personal role in building the Kingdom.

So, the question must be answered from the depths of our hearts, so we go deep to touch our faith experience. Advent’s focus is on the truth of God’s intervention in human history. Mother Mariela gives us a great image in her talk to the General Chapter, she says, God interacts with fragile humanity and weaves history with threads of his love. God’s loving action gives us Christ, who lived and died and rose for us, and who will come again. There’s our faith, there’s our experience of Christ always loving us into new life.

So, we secure our place in the coming of the Lord by attending to our task as Christians in the world that no longer holds on to God as the source of life and values. All the violence we see is so connected to this reality, people seeking their religious identity by fighting for their vision of God and their worldview that is so distorted and just not the God we know. So, it’s crucial that we be clear about our identity and our God, the God of peace, the God of love.

This Sunday says to us, don’t lose hope and keep rejoicing in the coming of the Savior. He comes again and again in us and among us. Isaiah’s image of the garden springing up tells the story, there is life in this wilderness. But it needs nourishing to come forth – it needs Christ, the Christ that we bring to the world. By our life of faith and action in Christ.

So, we live Christ, we proclaim him as Lord with every action, every thought, every word – we pray every day at Vigils – O Lord open my lips and my mouth shall declare your praise. Well, how true is that for each of us? Is our life a song of praise?

At the Crèche Festival this year, I met a family who named their son Anthem, because of the little boy’s healing as an infant, he became a sign to them of the Song of Praise they always want to give to God. This family’s faith and love of God touched something so deep in me. It was the realization of the power of praising God that frees us from the stuff of this world and tells us God is the answer to everything. Our lives too can be an Anthem, a song of praise to God.

Isaiah’s prophecy gives us this hope – because it’s our turn, we are anointed to bring hope to our wounded world, to every person in their situation of need. We dare to hope because we have Christ who goes before us and calls us to Himself and we know he desires that all people experience His life and love.

Really, we are talking about the re-structuring of society in the image of Christ. Advent tells us to get on with this task – to renew your efforts. Advent reminds us the world always waits in hope, in expectation of a Savior. We are like John the Baptist crying out in this wilderness, with our own mantra , “Look to Christ for the values that give life and let me show you the way!“

So, on this 3rd Sunday of Advent – we rejoice because we are called to give witness to the coming of Christ and His Kingdom among us.