3rd Sunday of Advent (Year C)(ROSE SUNDAY or GAUDETE SUNDAY)
First Reading: Zephaniah 3:14-18 Second Reading: Philippians 4:4-7 Gospel Reading: Luke 3:10-18
“REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS AND AGAIN I SAY REJOICE!”
There is a story told of two buckets which were kept at a well. Of the two, one was always sad and gloomy, while the other was always happy and joyful. The happy one said to the sad one - “ What's the matter with you? I see that you are always unhappy, sad and gloomy!” The sad one said - “Oh! It is my life. When I think of it I feel very bad and become so sad.” “What do you think of your life?” asked the first. The second replied - “Oh! when I look at my life – it is ever empty. See, however many times I come out of the well full, I always go to it empty and this emptiness makes me very very sad and gloomy.” “Oh!” said the first, “but I do not look at my life that way.” “How do you look at your life then?” inquired the second. The first replied - “Oh! I find my life always full. See, however many times I go into the well empty, I always come out full, and this fullness fills me with happiness & joy.”
We notice that the life of both the buckets is essentially the same, but their looking at it is different. And this makes one ever sad & mad, while the other is always happy & full of joy.
We are in the Holy Season of Advent and it is basically a penitential period. And therefore, the color of the vestments, as in Lent, is purple or violet. It is a time when we are invited through prayer and fasting or some other form of self-denial to prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas by a genuine experience of repentance and renewal. However, in Advent as in Lent, the Church cannot refrain from 'jumping the gun,' so to speak, by anticipating, if only briefly, the coming mood of celebration.
Now, today is the 3rd Sunday of Advent. In the tradition of the Liturgical calendar, the 3rd Sunday in Advent is often called “Rose Sunday,” because it represents a lightening of the dark violet of the rest of the penitential season of Advent. As we are approaching closer to Christmas, our joy gets more and more intense as we advance in our journey of faith. This is why the vestments for today's Mass are “rose-colored,” and we light the “rose candle” in the Advent wreath. They remind us of the color of the sky at the very brink of morning, when the sun is just beginning to come up. The horizon takes on a pale rose color that gradually gets redder and brighter as the sun rises. For faithful Christians, life is like a “long sunrise,” and death is the entrance into the bright, “everlasting day” of eternal life.
The liturgical texts of this Third Sunday of Advent are a hymn to joy. All the three Scripture Readings give the message of hope that fills us with joy. Joy is the theme of today: “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice!”
The First Reading of today is taken from the Book of the Prophet Zechariah, where the author sings a hymn of freedom from the tyranny of Ancient Babylonia: shout for joy, sing joyfully, be glad, the author proclaims. Why? Because the time of exile or separation from God is over and the Hebrews can now go back to Jerusalem and rebuild their city and temple. Yes, God is in their midst again and the people once again feel good about themselves because God has delivered them from their bondage. God's people are told to rejoice and exult - and, even more dramatically, that “the Lord will exult with joy” - “He will dance with shouts of joy,” and how wonderful it is!
The God we meet in today’s reading is a God who loves and delights in his people. This is a God who liberates and shares the joy of those whom he has set free. A graven idol cannot save people - and certainly cannot dance with them. Our God is a God who does both.
The reading, as throughout Advent, has God celebrating with the whole people - the whole community gathers around the God in their midst. This shared jubilation is an important reminder that we are part of a great community of faith reaching back into Jewish history and on into a future that has not been revealed. The God who was at work among the people of Zephaniah’s time is at work among us too. Our joy at seeing the things that God has done echoes shouts of joy from generation to generation.
This Third Sunday of Advent is also called "Gaudete" Sunday or “Rejoice” Sunday. “Gaudete” is Latin for "Rejoice!" It comes from the first word of today's Second Reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians, which picks up the theme of rejoicing begun in the First: “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice!” In the reading St. Paul reminds the Corinthian community at Philippi in Greece that God is near, and urges them to be joyful and generous in their relationships with one another, to pray confidently to God, and not to be anxious about their lives, as someone has said - 'Anxiety is like a rocking chair; it gives you something to do but gets you nowhere.'
Here St. Paul is not advocating a life that does not acknowledge suffering - far from it; his own life after his conversion was marked by trial and difficulty. What he is trying to encourage is a life of faith that trusts even when 'sorely afflicted.' This is not the happiness that is jolly all the time - but a deeper happiness that isn’t afraid of sadness. It is a happiness that prays in its need, trusting that in time, God’s peace will re-establish itself in its heart. Such happiness is not easily won - it takes work and practice. It is accepting that hard things will happen and there will be sorrow in this life - but, ultimately God sees a bigger picture than we can and has everything in hand - including us.
In the Gospel reading of today according to St. Luke, once again, as happens so frequently during Advent, St. John the Baptist takes center stage. John preached the 'baptism of repentance,' and although he was preaching in the wilderness, news of his teaching spread far and wide and many people sought him out. Their first question was: what does repentance mean in practice? John’s advice is simple and practical - live charitably and honestly: share what you have with the needy; be fair and honest in your business dealings with others; don’t be greedy. John goes on to say: “One mightier than he is about to come who will fire us up with the power of the Spirit.” And there is “the joy” John the Baptist communicates to the people by preaching the Good News of the saving Messiah, who with his coming will establish justice and peace among human beings.
John was the messenger sent to prepare the world - not to save it. He was sent to begin gathering the harvest - but the one to come will winnow it and separate grain from chaff, determining who will enter the Kingdom and who will not. The grain is what has the capacity to bear fruit - the chaff will blow away - or be burnt in the fire. Those who repent and live according the to the directives John lays down have the capacity to bear fruit in their own spheres. A tax-collector who does not cheat - or a soldier who does not extort will soon be marked out as different. They may suffer ridicule and be tempted by the siren voices: everyone does it. But, holding firm to their principles, will set an example of living which will influence others: what is it that these people have that causes them to behave like this? In our own day - and in our own work, the challenge remains the same: do we act as grain - or chaff?
“REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS AND AGAIN I SAY REJOICE!”
Today, the Church calls us to rejoice, to have joy in Christ. And this we do by entering into a loving relationship with Christ and advance in our journey of faith by loving others. Through the Scripture Readings of today, as people who are preparing for 'the parousia,' the 2nd Coming of Christ - we are given a glimpse of what that may be like. Yes, we will greet a victorious and glorious Lord - but one who comes among us and dances with us and joins in the songs of joy at our own salvation.