Mother Teresa of Calcutta brought untold blessings and joy to the poor who lay unattended and forgotten on the streets of Calcutta. When she was asked the source of her joy, Mother Teresa replied: “Joy is prayer; joy is strength; joy is love and joy is a net of love. A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love, loving as He loves, helping as He helps, giving as He gives, serving as He serves, rescuing as He rescues, being with Him twenty-four hours, touching Him in His distressing disguise.” When Advent arrived every year, Mother Teresa’s life continued to witness this joy, which is the true hallmark of every Christian and the rightful inheritance of all the poor.
This Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudete Sunday” because today’s Mass begins with the opening antiphon in Latin text: “Gaudete in Domino Semper” means “Rejoice in the Lord always.” It reminds us that we are preparing for the very joyful occasion of the birth of Jesus. The priests may wear rose vestments, and the rose candle in the Advent wreath is lit today. The common theme of the day’s Scripture readings is one of joy and encouragement. The readings urge us to make the preparations required of us as we await the rebirth of Jesus in our hearts and lives. Holy Scripture reminds us that the coming of Jesus, past, present, and future, is the reason for our rejoicing.
The first reading is taken from the Prophet Isaiah. This particular section of Isaiah comes from the turbulent period in the sixth century BC when the Jews were trying to re-establish themselves in their homeland after enduring a generation of exile in Babylon. He encourages the Jewish exiles returning from Babylon to rejoice because their God is their strong guide, provider, and protector. The responsorial Psalm from Mary’s Magnificat exclaims: “My soul rejoices in my God my Savior.” In the second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he encourages the Christians to “rejoice always” by leading blameless, holy, and thankful lives guided by the Holy Spirit because Christ’s second coming is near, and He is faithful in his promise to reward them. Today’s gospel resounds the voice of John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness, asking the people to prepare the way for the Lord. John the Baptist came to bear witness to Jesus as the Light of the world. He wants all the Jews to rejoice because the long-expected Messiah, as the Light of the world, will remove the darkness of sin from the world. We rejoice today at the humility of John the Baptist, who announced his unworthiness even to become the slave of Jesus the Messiah. We also rejoice in the sincerity and commitment of John, who spent his entire time preparing the people for the long-awaited Messiah. We have an additional reason to rejoice today because, like John the Baptist, we, too, are chosen, anointed, and commissioned to bear witness to Christ, the Light of the world.
“Joy is prayer; joy is strength; joy is love and joy is a net of love…”
The third Sunday of Advent is an invitation to bear witness to Christ and His Light. Our mission, as brothers and sisters of Christ and members of His Church, is to reflect Christ’s Light to others, just as the moon reflects the light of the Sun. It is important during this Advent season to reflect on sharing Christ’s love and unconditional forgiveness through our lives. There are many people who live in darkness, fear, and poverty, who lack real freedom because of their bad addictions and poor choices. There are others who are blinded by cheap attractions and became slaves in this world. Many others feel lonely, unwanted, rejected, and marginalized. We may be able to find victims of this kind among us, around us, and maybe under the same roof where you and I live. We are called to bring glad tidings of joy and the true Light of Christ by illumining the lives of these brothers and sisters during this Advent Season. Our sharing of love, overflowing mercy, unconditional forgiveness, and humble service will go a long way in the lives of others. We will be able to accomplish the witnessing mission of radiating Christ’s Light by repenting of our sins, asking God’s pardon, renewing our lives through our daily prayers, frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation, taking part in the Eucharistic celebration, reading the Holy Bible in prayerful fashion, and performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Let us remember that Christmas is not complete unless we show real generosity to those who have nothing to give us in return. Christmas is a time of joyful sharing, selfless caring, and compassionate giving, as Christ himself did for you and me.
May God bless all of us!
Fr. Tomy Joseph Puliyanampattayil, MSFS
(Fr. T J. Puliyan, MSFS)