Third Sunday of Advent
December 13, 2020 Cycle B
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine
 Washington, D.C.

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Sunday Reading Meditations

On the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, the Church invites us to rejoice: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near” (Entrance antiphon). Advent is a time for joyful hope.

In today’s Gospel, Saint John the Baptist says to the Pharisees: “There is one among you whom you do not recognize” (Jn 1:26). The recognition of Christ is a grace of the Holy Spirit: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me” (Is 61:1). The recognition of Jesus’ gentle presence fills our hearts with joy. The experience of being chosen, known and loved by God makes us rejoice: “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked upon his lowly servant” (Lk 1:47–48).

As we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, we experience more joy in our lives. Saint Paul warns the Thessalonians and us: “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Ts 5:19). The Holy Spirit convinces us that we are beloved sons and daughters of God. As Saint Paul says in the Letter to the Romans: “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:15–16). Life according to the Spirit is marked by joy, while life according to the flesh is marked by sadness.

What prevents us from being joyful? The Devil constantly tries to tell us that we are not loved by God or, at least, that he does not think about us. We cannot accept this lie. We must renounce and rebuke it. We are beloved and chosen children of God.

We do not have a superficial reason to be glad. Spiritual joy is not dependent on good circumstances. God himself is the source of our joy. Spiritual joy is not just a feeling. God himself is the reason for our joy. In today’s first reading, the prophet Isaiah says: “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul” (Is 61:10). In the Magnificat, Mary declares: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

In today’s second reading, Saint Paul makes a connection between joy and prayer: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing” (1 Ts 5:16). Saint Paul is not saying that we should constantly be saying prayers. We pray without ceasing if we desire Jesus’ coming at every moment.

The experience of joy makes us witnesses to the faith. Today’s first reading declares: “He [The Lord] has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor” (Is 61:1). As we experience joy, we communicate it to others.  Joy is contagious. Today’s Gospel says the following about Saint John the Baptist: “He was not the light, but came to testify to the light” (Jn 1:8). Christ is the light that fills our hearts with joy.

In the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis wrote: “The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.” 

May this Advent season be an occasion to renew our personal encounter with Christ and find the cause for our joy in our recognition of his presence among us.  Amen.