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3rd Sunday of Advent

FIRST READING Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11 The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God. I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels. As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the Lord God make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.

SECOND READING 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Brothers and sisters: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil. May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it.

GOSPEL John 1:6-8, 19-28

A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, “Who are you?” He admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, “I am not the Christ.” So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?” He said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord, as Isaiah the prophet said.” Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

The Prophet Isaiah gives us the theme for reflection today: “In my God is the joy of my soul.” When that is true in our lives, we are walking the road and we know the truth of these words from the same Prophet: “He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God.”

This great Prophet Isaiah believed with his whole being that God would send salvation and redemption for His people. Each one of us can have that same trust and confidence in God: God loves us and will bring us salvation. God invites us to live according to His laws and His wisdom—let us walk the way of the Lord!

This is the 3rd Sunday of Advent and called “Gaudete” Sunday in Latin. It is a Sunday of rejoicing. The entrance song for some centuries was always from the Letter to the Philippians: Rejoice in the Lord always! Again, I say, rejoice!

The second reading this Sunday picks up the theme of rejoicing: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.” We need to hear both of these realities: rejoice and pray! We can only rejoice always if we are praying without ceasing. God is not asking the impossible of us. We are able to walk through a normal day while keeping Him always in our heart. It is not easy and we shall fail but when we see that God is not in our heart, we can invite Him once more to make us aware of His presence. In that way, we can rejoice and pray all the day long.

The Gospel from Saint John today brings us back to Saint John the Baptist. John the Baptist was a central focus of the Gospel last Sunday and once again is here for us to consider. We should note that John the Baptist is not at all concerned about being considered great or important. His one concern is to point to Jesus Christ: the One who is to come, whose sandal strap he is unworthy to untie.

Saint John the Baptist is a saint of joy because he points always to Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. We also can become people of joy when our lives point to Jesus our Lord. We don’t have to be perfect but we do have to keep pointing to the Lord. Just as in the life of John the Baptist, the more we decrease, the more the Lord may increase. It is a challenge for us to live in such a way that we are always witness to the presence of God and God’s love.

The Offertory in the Latin Mass is clear: “Lord, you have blessed your land. You have forgiven the iniquity of your people.” It is because God loves us and forgives us that we can rejoice and be glad. It is because Jesus invites us to live His life that our lives can be witnesses to Him. Let us rejoice and be glad this Sunday as we delight in God’s love.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip