Rejoice in the Lord Always: Third Sunday of Advent

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.

Central idea: Rejoice in the Lord always. Doctrine: The Beatitudes. Practical application: Rejoicing in the Lord always.

Lectionary 8.

Central idea: Rejoice in the Lord always

Reading 1 Is 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.

  • The Third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday because the Introit begins with “Gaudete in Domino semper” (Phil 4:4,5), meaning, “Rejoice in the Lord always.”
  • According to the Gospel of Luke, Our Lord began his public ministry in his own hometown on a Sabbath by opening the scroll of Isaiah and reading the first part of this passage. Then he said to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21).
  • This scripture was fulfilled because the Messiah, God’s anointed, stood before them. He would do all those things for Israel and for every human being who would one day follow him. Christ the Messiah not only saves but also sanctifies. The poor are not just fed and clothed but elevated to royalty and treated as such.
  • Christ further articulates these glad tidings in the Beatitudes. Those who are either lacking essential goods (like those who mourn) or pursuing very difficult human goods (like purity of heart) are called blessed.
  • Each follower of Christ can also associate himself with the speaker in the second part of the reading. While we are not the Messiah, we also can rejoice heartily in the Lord, because he has clothed us in robes of salvation and sanctification.

Responsorial Psalm Lk 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54

R. My soul rejoices in my God.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:

the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.

He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy.

  • We just celebrated the underlying reason for Our Lady’s constant joy, that which made her fit to be the Mother of God: her Immaculate Conception.
  • Mary completely shares in the joy of the Messiah which Isaiah proclaimed.
  • The Blessed Virgin Mary proclaims that if you have God you have everything. She also testifies that if you don’t have God, no matter how many seemingly good things you have, you ultimately have nothing. The rich are sent away empty.

Reading 2 1 Thes 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.

  • Is the person of Jesus Christ and his salvation real to me? If it is, then I can rejoice always.
  • Paul offers us an examination of conscience about joy:
    • Do I pray without ceasing?
      • A young child will talk incessantly to his parents; two friends with the same interest can never exhaust what they have to say about it; a couple falling in love can never share enough—Is my prayer anything like those examples?
    • Do I give thanks constantly because I am aware of all the gifts I have received and am receiving from the Lord?
    • Do I realize that the Holy Spirit actually will speak and act through me?
    • Am I fearless toward the world, able to test what is of value, to keep that, and to bring even more good out of it?
    • Do I refrain from all evil?
  • Of course this kind of perfection is not possible for us on our own. It is not even fully possible in this life. But this life is the process by which, with God’s help, we become entirely—meaning “in spirit, soul, and body”—holy and blameless.

Gospel Jn 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.

  • In this Gospel we see priests, Levites, and Pharisees—men who were supposed to be completely oriented to God—going to John the Baptist to find out if he might be the messiah or the messiah’s forerunner. They are seekers of the Lord.
  • The psalmist says, “Let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice” (Ps 105:3). The Catechism reminds us, “Although man can forget God or reject him, He never ceases to call every man to seek him, so as to find life and happiness” (CCC 30). God made us for life and happiness, not misery and death.
  • Yet, in the condition in which we exist on this earth, “this search for God demands of man every effort of intellect, a sound will, ‘an upright heart,’ as well as the witness of others who teach him to seek God” (CCC 30). This Catechism point then ends with the famous beginning passage of St. Augustine’s Confessions:

You are great, O Lord, and greatly to be praised: great is your power and your wisdom is without measure. And man, so small a part of your creation, wants to praise you: this man, though clothed with mortality and bearing the evidence of sin and the proof that you withstand the proud. Despite everything, man, though but a small part of your creation, wants to praise you. You yourself encourage him to delight in your praise, for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.

  • John the Evangelist says that St. John the Baptist “came to testify to the light.” That light is Christ. Christ is the person who makes it possible for us to see what will really make us happy. What he helps us see most of all is himself. He is what will most make us happy.
  • But to see Christ, we need to be “tuned up,” so to speak. Our intellect, will, and heart need to be oriented to Christ and we also need the witness of others to teach us.
  • That is what St. John the Baptist was doing for the Chosen People. He was orienting them, tuning them up, preparing them to be able to see the light by repentance.

Doctrine: The Beatitudes

  • In today’s lectionary readings which advise us to rejoice always, even in tribulation, Christ’s nine Beatitudes, though not named, are entirely present in the sense that those who have not, have everything. This is God’s surprising divine economy or dynamic at work.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you
and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward is great in heaven. (Mt 5:3-12)

  • Point 1717 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes this dynamic. It tells us:
    • The Beatitudes depict the countenance of Jesus Christ and portray his charity.
      • Our Lord is humble, merciful, pure of heart, a peacemaker. In his passion, especially, his spirit was crushed, he mourned, and he was reviled and persecuted.
      • His charity is seen in his promise to reverse the painful condition of all those in similar straits.
    • They express the vocation of the faithful associated with the glory of his Passion and Resurrection.
      • We are called to offer up all our needs, wants, and physical and mental suffering to help bring about the kingdom of heaven.
    • They shed light on the actions and attitudes characteristic of the Christian life.
      • We should act with mercy and be reconcilers. Our attitude should be to desire justice with a purity of heart, despite how others respond.
    • They are the paradoxical promises that sustain hope in the midst of tribulations.
      • The poor in spirit know their need of God and so are deficient, yet Christ promises that deficiency will be fully remedied. Those who mourn will be comforted in full someday. Those who have nothing now, the meek, will inherit everything. Those who are distressed about all the evil in the world, including the evil they see in themselves, will see justice restored in creation.
    • They proclaim the blessings and rewards already secured, however dimly, for Christ’s disciples.
      • Because Christ has won heaven for us, it is already ours, and we are winning it ourselves by experiencing what he experienced to win it for us.
    • They have begun in the lives of the Virgin Mary and all the saints.
      • The Blessed Virgin Mary is one of the meek who will inherit the earth: “for he has looked upon his lowly servant,” whom all generations will call blessed. She is one of the pure in heart who literally saw God. She mourned at the foot of the Cross and was comforted in the Resurrection.

Practical Application: Rejoicing in the Lord always

  • Paul exhorts us, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Phil 4:4-5).
  • As we have seen, we can rejoice out of gratitude for every blessing either in possession or in promise. If we regularly count our blessings in the presence of God, we will see how much we have to be thankful for.
  • We can rejoice in our material and spiritual poverty, because this is why Christ has come to save and sanctify us. He is merciful and we are the beneficiaries of his mercy.
  • We can rejoice even when other people are causing us suffering because we can unite that persecution to Christ’s passion and be co-redeemers.
  • We can rejoice when we are actually loving and serving others because that is what they and Christ want.

The Homiletic Directory recommends the following Catechism points and themes for the Third Sunday of Advent:

  • CCC 30, 163, 301, 736, 1829, 1832, 2015, 2362: joy
  • CCC 713-714: characteristics of the awaited Messiah
  • CCC 218-219: God’s love for Israel
  • CCC 772, 796: the Church as the Bride of Christ






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