THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT
This is Gaudete (“let us rejoice”) Sunday. We will light the pink candle on our Advent wreath. There is a clear theme of joy in the first and second readings and in the psalm. In the Gospel, John wants his readers to be very clear that he is not the Messiah, but the one preparing people to receive the Messiah.
FIRST READING: Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11
In this reading, the prophet speaks of his commission as a servant of the Lord. God has anointed him with his spirit so that he may accomplish his mission to the needy. In this case, the needy are broken-hearted exiles who have just returned to a land that is in need of much reconstruction. The “I” in “I rejoice heartily…” seems to be a reference to Jerusalem, who is full of joy that God has come to forgive her sins and to restore her to righteousness. Then the prophet uses spousal imagery to describe Israel’s covenant relationship with God: “…like a bride bedecked with her jewels.”
SECOND READING: 1Thessalonians 5:16-24
Paul concludes this letter to the people of Thessalonica with a note of joy. Just as they accepted God’s word with joy (which is a gift of the Spirit), so must their lives continue to be marked by joy — even in the midst of their afflictions. Paul emphasizes the importance of a grateful heart and openness to the Holy Spirit: “Do not quench the Spirit.” But neither should they embrace every new fad: “Test everything; retain what is good.” Paul concludes with a prayer for his people: “May the God of peace make you perfectly holy….”
GOSPEL: John 1:6-8, 19-28
Last Sunday, Mark introduced us to John the Baptist; this Sunday, John the Evangelist contrasts the roles of John the Baptist with that of Jesus. John the Evangelist is writing to a community, some of whom still believed that John the Baptist was the Messiah. John the Evangelist wants his people to be very clear that his ministry was temporary and subordinate to that of Christ’s. John is a witness to the Light. Jesus is the Light. Three times John says: “I am not the Light.” When asked: “Who are you?” John says: “I am a voice pointing people to Jesus who is the Light.” The “Jerusalem Jews” (some Pharisees who came in delegations to question Jesus) are the ones who constantly prefer the darkness to the light.
How can you be witnesses to the Light during this Advent season?