The third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called Gaudete Sunday, a Sunday of rejoicing. The Entrance Antiphon for today’s Mass reads, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.”
We are called upon to rejoice not because we may not have worries or pain, but because we have all the comfort that we need. St Paul already declared that hardship, distress, persecution, lack of food and clothing, threats or violence cannot separate us from the love of Christ, (Rom 8:35-39). We are invited to rejoice for the hope we have in Christ Jesus. Our hope is anchored in our knowledge and belief that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem two thousand years ago and that he will be reborn on Christmas day. This knowledge and expectation fill our hearts with Joy. In our hope and expectation, we make the lyric of the chorus of the hymn ‘Though the Mountains May Fall’ by Dan Schutte our own. It reads, ‘Though the mountains may fall and the hills turn to dust, yet the love of the Lord will stand, as a shelter for all who will call on His name, sing the praise and the glory of God.’
The liturgical colour for today is rose, hence, it is also known as Rose Sunday. The colour of the candle for the third Sunday of Advent is Rose. Rose vestments are used by the priest if available.
The Readings today are permeated with the theme of joy. Indeed, joy is in the air. The first Reading from the Book of Prophet Zephaniah states, “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has repealed your sentence….”
The second Reading, (Phil 4:4-7), invites us to be happy. It states, “I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord; I repeat, what I want is your happiness.” The source of this happiness is the nearness of the Lord.
The Gospel, (Lk 3:10-18), continued the presentation of the ministry of John the Baptist who was introduced to us last Sunday as the one who came to prepare the way for the Lord. In today’s passage, people of different walks of life approached John the Baptist to enquire what they must do to prepare for the coming of the Lord. To the public, John emphasised the importance of social justice – taking care of the vulnerable people in our society by sharing our human and material resources with them as much as we can.
The recent outcry which led to the rescue of the nine-year-old Afghan girl who was sold into marriage in Afghanistan underscores the importance of being a voice for the voiceless, and the need to fight relentlessly all forms of structural injustices.
The recent passing of Equal Opportunity, (Religious Exceptions), Amendment Bill in the Victoria Parliament is a retrogression in religious freedom in Victoria. According to Archbishop Peter Comensoli, “the legislation is a serious overreach by the Victorian Government into the rightful freedoms of faith-based organisations. It unfairly targets and undermines the ability of faith organisations to confidently manage employment matters according to their mission.”
To the tax collectors, John the Baptist exhorted them not to defraud people by inflating the taxes they collect. They must rather collect taxes as stipulated by the government.
To the military, he cautioned that might was not always right. He enjoined them not to intimidate people because they had access to weapons. Hence, nations must not invade other nations just because they have more sophisticated weaponry than the nation they are invading.
May the joy which surrounds this third Sunday of Advent pervade our preparations for Christmas. Amen.
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp