Homily – Third Sunday of Advent, Year A
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.” It is taken from Philippians 4:4-5. I invite you to sing with me again our entrance hymn, “rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say rejoice. Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say rejoice. Rejoice, rejoice, again I say rejoice.”
We are rejoicing not because we do not have worries or pain; or because we have all the comfort that we need. Not at all. St Paul already declared that hardships, distress, persecution, lack of food and clothing, threats or violence cannot separate us from the love of Christ (Rom 8:35-39).
We are asked to rejoice because of 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 again on Christmas Day. This knowledge and expectation fill our hearts with Joy.
In our hope and expectation, we also 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 to all who will call on his name. Sing the praise and the glory of God.”
The liturgical colour for the third Sunday of Advent is rose. Today is also known as Rose Sunday. The colour of the candle for this Sunday is Rose. Rose vestments are used by the priest if available. Today’s Readings are permeated with either invitations to rejoice or acts that put a smile on people’s cheeks. In the First Reading, (Is 35:1-6), Prophet Isaiah extols, “Let the wilderness and the dry-lands exult, let the wasteland rejoice and bloom, let it bring forth flowers like the jonquil, let it rejoice and sing for joy.” He then enumerated some of the signs that would be associated with the messianic times, which included the opening of the eyes of the blind, the unsealing of the ears of the deaf, the healing of the lame, the restoration of the power of speech to the dumb and the return of the exiles.
The Gospel continues the theme of John the Baptist, the precursor of Jesus Christ who was introduced to us in the Gospel reading of last Sunday. In today’s Gospel, (Mt 11:2-11), John who came to bear witness to the Light, who is Jesus Christ, has been imprisoned by King Herod. John’s offence was that he spoke the truth. In being faithful to his central message that people should “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand”, he confronted Herod for taking Herodias, the wife of Philip, his brother, (Mk 6:14-29). Our actions or in-actions have consequences, however, it is better for us to suffer for doing what is right rather than for betraying our faith in Jesus.
Based upon the Reading of last Sunday, (Mt 3:1-12), John was expecting an uncompromising Messiah who would cut down and burn any tree that does not produce good fruit. That is, the Messiah would be judgemental, rewarding people of impeccable character and banishing all the sinners. From prison, John heard that Jesus was mingling with both righteous people and sinners. Jesus said that he had come to seek and save those who were lost, (Lk 19:10); and that it was the sick, rather than the healthy, who needed the doctor, (Mk 2:17). This manner of ministry by Jesus in which he does not wait for people to fully repent before he seeks them out did not augur well with the world view of John the Baptist about the Messiah. Hence, he sent some of his disciples to Jesus so that he, (Jesus), may affirm that he was truly the messiah.
One may wonder if John the Baptist was expecting Jesus to miraculously free him from prison. Each of us has our life story. At times, martyrdom may be a way destined for us to give glory to God. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed that if possible, the cup might pass him by, but he added not as he would have it, but as the Lord wanted, (Mt 26:39). Eventually, John the Baptist was beheaded in the prison.
Jesus gave the disciples of John the message to take back to him. The core of the message was that he was fulfilling the prophesy of Isaiah about the messiah. “The blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor.” Thus, through these means, Jesus was making the kingdom of God manifest by rejuvenating the people and adding effervescence to their lives.
After the disciples of John the Baptist had gone to deliver their finding to John, Jesus praised him for being a great prophet.
Let us place our trust in our saviour Jesus Christ as we rejoice in his deliverance
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp