Third Sunday of Advent
Today we celebrate Gaudete Sunday – “Rejoice!” Sunday. We light the rose candle on the wreath. The priest and deacon wear rose vestments, signifying the Church’s joy because our God draws near.
The gospel provides us with the reason for our rejoicing: our salvation, our liberation is at hand. We are called to rejoice, even in the midst of our darkness. Within the darkness of his prison, within the darkness of his doubts, John the Baptist has his disciples ask Jesus: “Are you the coming one, or should we look for another?” Jesus may not have been quite the messiah that John and others were expecting. Otherwise, why, John wonders, is he wallowing in prison instead of doing God’s work? Why, we might also wonder, is God not fixing our problem? What kind of God is this?
How does Jesus respond? Go back, he says, and don’t tell John what I am saying; tell him what I am doing. Don’t tell John what I am claiming; tell him what is happening. “The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”
We may not have the physical ailments Jesus mentions; that isn’t the point. The point is that these acts are miraculous not only in their physical healing, but in their ability to heal our deepest needs, our darkest doubts. Perhaps most importantly, Jesus is speaking about a life lived in him, in liberation from that which keeps us from being fully alive, fully mature disciples, fully aware of God’s grace and love.
Jesus may not be the kind of messiah we expect, but he is the messiah we need. At every Mass during the Communion rite, in the words of John the Baptist, the priest proclaims to us who the Messiah is, and the life-giving food we need: “Behold, the Lamb of God; behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”
That proclamation is reason enough for rejoicing.
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.