Today we celebrate the third Sunday in Advent, typically referred to as Gaudete Sunday. We see this reflected throughout our readings beginning with the final chapters of the book of Isaiah in the first reading. Also, today we hear about John the Baptist as he prepares the way for Jesus’ ministry. In the first reading, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” Isaiah 61:1, offers us a look at a very ancient prophecy during a time when the Hebrew people were liberated from Babylon by Cyrus of Persia. Upon returning home, they discovered Jerusalem had changed. It was not how they remembered, their dream of rebuilding the temple is stalled. They were still unable to worship God—in essence, they were still captive. Certainly, amid these Covid days, most of us feel captive in our homes as our landscape has changed dramatically. Like the Hebrew people, we wonder, will life ever return to “normal.” This reading is a foreshadow of the coming of the anointed One, the focus of Advent. In Jesus, our joy, we see all those elements revealed, in Jesus, we see the Father’s Glory. We are close to welcoming Jesus among us—once again. He truly is driven by the Spirit of God.
We see the Spirit of God at work in the humility of John the Baptist by his declarative statements, “I am not the Christ. I am a voice crying out in the desert.” Further, John offers that “he is among you, whom you do not recognize”…. Which is an interesting insight for us. Catholic teaching suggests that we are fashioned in the imago Dei, then isn’t that true? We are all an image of Christ. We might ponder, how well do we respond to the Spirit of God at work in our lives?
Mary understood the promise of liberation in her Magnificat suggesting that “my soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord” in our responsorial psalm. She recognizes the Spirit of God at work in her life and the life of the community. St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians offers us this challenge, “Rejoice always.” It’s a very simple recipe as outlined by St. Paul. “Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God for you.”
Especially in this time of virus desolation, we could all use a little bit of joy. Our call in these readings is to rejoice, pay attention, to be ready, to always give thanks and trust that the “one who calls you is faithful, and he will accomplish it.” Whatever the Spirit of God calls forth in our lives, may we respond in faith so that Jesus may come again—in us. And may the Spirit of God protect all our healthcare workers and those suffering with Covid and their families. Amen.
Jean Bowler is a retreatant at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California, and a member of the Office of Mission Effectiveness Board of Holy Cross Province.