- lsaiah 61:1-2. 10-11 .
- Psalm Lk 1:46-50. 53-54. R. ls 61:10
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
- John 1:6-8. 19-28
Today we celebrate the 3rd Sunday of Advent. The word Advent comes from the Latin word meaning “coming” or “arrival”. Jesus Christ came the ﬁrst time 2,000 years ago. He died rose from the dead and gave us the Holy Spirit. He gave us his graces, his love, his peace and his joy! These gifts are eternal. They come from God and they will go back to God. When these gifts become complete and perfect in us, Jesus Christ will come back a second time to take us to heaven to continue to live this eternal life of love, peace and joy!
But between His ﬁrst and second coming there are thousands of years, and we do not know when is his second coming. It may be in another two thousand years. But one thing we do know, i.e. in the thousands of years between his ﬁrst and second coming, Jesus Christ has not forgotten us, he has not abandoned us and he has not left us to ourselves to work out our own salvation. To work out our own salvation is against the very nature of our salvation by grace.
Between his ﬁrst coming in the past and his second coming in the future, Jesus Christ continues to come in the present every year, every month, every week, and every day. He continues to come to help us grow in his Spirit, in his grace, in his love and in his joy, until at last when his grace becomes perfect and complete in us he will come a second time at the end of the world to take us with him to heaven!
That is why we celebrate Christmas every year and at the beginning of every liturgical year! When we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ every year, every month, every week, and every day! And Advent is a time when we prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas!
The Church has chosen the gospel today to tell us to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas. In the gospel today, the Jews sent priests and Levites to John the Baptist to ask if he was the Messiah, or Elijah who was supposed to come before the Messiah, or the Prophet, i.e. another Moses who was the prophet par excellence and who will repeat the Exodus on a grander scale.
But John the Baptist replied that he was not any of these. He was as the prophet Isaiah said. ‘a voice that cries out in the wilderness, make the path straight for the Lord’. John the Baptist was not the Messiah; he was only the one who prepares the people for the coming of the Messiah. The Church has chosen this gospel reading to exhort us to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas.
Then the Pharisees asked John the Baptist why he was baptizing if he was not the Messiah, and John the Baptist replied, ‘l baptize you with water, but there is one among you, who you do not recognize and whose sandal-strap I am not worthy to undo, i.e. I am not worthy even to become his slave. In short, John the Baptist said, ‘I am not the messiah; I am only the one preparing the people for the coming of the messiah. Again, the Church has chosen this gospel reading to tell us to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas!
Even more important, the Church has chosen the ﬁrst reading from Isaiah to tell us that when Jesus Christ comes at Christmas, he will bring good news to the poor, bind up the broken hearted, set the captives free, liberate those in prison and proclaim the Lord’s year of favor and grace!
In Luke 4:16-21, Jesus tells the people in the synagogue that this text of Isaiah 61:1-2 is fulﬁlled in him!
The poor are not only the materially poor or even the spiritually poor, but the poor are the humble who are dependent on God alone for salvation, i.e. the humble who recognize their own sin, and more importantly, their own helplessness to overcome sin, and most importantly, their total dependence on God to help them overcome sin!
The broken hearted are not only those who have been jilted by boyfriend or girlfriend, or husband or wife, but those who have not experienced the inﬁnite and unconditional love of God, the forgiveness of God, and the mercy of God! The captives and those in prison are not only those who are in our jails, but those of us who are enslaved by sin, lust, sex, power, drugs, wealth and death and who have no way to get out of our enslavements. Only Jesus Christ can free and liberate us from our enslavements!
And ﬁnally, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favor and grace! Salvation is 100% God’s favor and grace, not 99.9%! We have only to respond to God’s grace and favor, but even our response is a result and an effect of God’s grace and favor! Salvation is God’s favour and grace all the way!
The ﬁrst part of Isaiah, which we have just seen, is taken from Isaiah 61 :1-2, but the second part of Isaiah, which we are about to see, is taken from Isaiah 61 :10-1 I. Again, it is important to remember that the Church has chosen this second part of Isaiah to tell us of the joy and rejoicing of Christmas! This second part of Isaiah may be seen as a response to the ﬁrst part of Isaiah. Thus we read, ‘I exult for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God, for he has clothed me with the garment of salvation and he has covered me with the cloak of integrity (saving-justice, NJB), like a bridegroom wearing his wreath and like a bride wearing her jewels. (God is the bridegroom who covers us his bride with the garment of salvation and wrap us with the cloak of saving-justice. He is like a bridegroom who wears a garland and he adorns us his bride with jewels.) Just as the earth brings forth vegetation and the garden seeds spring to life, so too the Lord will make integrity (saving-justice) and praise spring up in the sight of the nations’!
This theme of the joy and rejoicing of Christmas is taken up and reinforced in the Responsorial Psalm. In fact the Responsorial Psalm today is strictly not a Responsorial Psalm. It is not even a psalm. It is the Magniﬁcat of Mary! It is from the gospel of Luke, chapter 1! In the gospel of Luke, chapter 1, we read of the announcement of the angel Gabriel, ‘Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you’. We also read of Elizabeth saying to Mary, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, and blessed are you who believe that the promise made to you will be fulﬁlled’!
ln response to these blessings, favors and graces, Mary ‘responds with the Magniﬁcat by saying, ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of God, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
He has looked on his lowly handmaid; from now on all generations will call me blessed.
The Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name! His mercy is from age to age on all those who fear’.
Again, the Church chose the Responsorial Psalm of today to tell us that Mary responds to the favor, grace and blessing of God with joy and rejoicing!
Today is the 3rd Sunday of Advent and it is called literally “Rejoice” Sunday! It is taken from the Latin word “Gaudete” meaning “Rejoice”. That is why just now after proclaiming the gospel I lighted the 3rd candle of the Advent wreathe which is pink in colour. The vestment I am wearing is also pink in colour and with the word “Joy”. Pink is the colour of joy! There are 4 Sundays in Advent and we are already in the 3m Sunday of Advent. We are more than half way through to Christmas and that is why we rejoice!
Finally, the Church has chosen the second reading of today from l Thessalonians for this time of Advent to tell us to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas! The spirit of this second reading is summed up in the caption of today’s second reading: “May you all be kept safe and blameless in body, mind and spirit for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”!
During this time of Advent, the Church asks us to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas by prayer, by going to mass on Sunday and weekdays, by going to confession (penitential services in the parishes), by penance (although Advent is not a penitential season, the Church in the Diocese of Kota Kinabalu tells us not to get married during Advent), by going carolling (proclaiming the good news), by becoming Santa Claus (St. Nicholas in Dutch) to the poor, the sick, the aged, the children, the weak, the handicapped, etc.! St. Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra in Lycia in Asia Minor, who lived in the 3″’ century! He was noted for his charity to the poor! Besides being Santa Claus to the poor, we must also become Santa Claus to one another, i.e. we must also buy presents for one another! We may not be materially poor, but we may be emotionally, psychologically, socially, and spiritually poor!
A Happy Advent to all of you! Amen!
Parish Priest of St Mary, Tawau, Sabah East Malaysia.