Third Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28
This is no ordinary Advent Sunday. Today, the priest wears not penitential purple, but joyful rose vestments. The Advent Wreath candle he lights is not purple, but rose. Today is "Gaudete! Sunday." Today, we are urged, virtually ordered, to rejoice.
This liturgical midpoint in our Advent season sounds a joyful note. The readings call us to rejoice. The Prophet Isaiah seems to leap as he sings "I rejoice in the Lord, in my God the joy of my soul." With our Blessed Mother in the responsorial psalm we sing: "My soul rejoices in my God." The Apostle Paul greets us with the words "Rejoice, always!"
Why rejoice? Because after nearly 800 years, the prophecy of Isaiah has been fulfilled. John the Baptist has burst onto the scene of salvation history to shout "I am the voice of one crying out in the desert; make straight the way of the Lord."
That’s right. Get ready, the Messiah is on his way. And who better than John to make the announcement? It was he, who in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth, leaped with joy when the Blessed Mother came to visit her. It is no surprise that some even call John the patron saint of spiritual joy.
On this "Gaudete! Sunday," as we prepare for the coming of the Lord, the Church encourages us to continue our spiritual preparation, especially prayer and fasting – with rejoicing.
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.