Monday, December 16, 2013

Rejoice!: 3rd Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday)

            You may be wondering what this third Sunday of Advent is all about—and why pink?  Today is Gaudete Sunday, a time to pause from our Advent penances to rejoice in the coming of our Savior. The word Gaudete means just that—rejoice.  The color change symbolizes a move from waiting to celebrating. It comes from the first word sung in the old Latin Mass on the third Sunday of Advent—“Rejoice in the Lord always…”
            St. James uses a cool image in his letter: “Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord.  See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.”  Like a farmer, God has been patient in preparing the soil of the world for the coming of Christ.  He has been waiting—not just thousands of years (the time we humans have existed), millions of years (longer than when the dinosaurs roamed the earth), billions of years (our universe has probably existed five to six billion years) but forever.  That is why we rejoice today.
            John the Baptist represents the nearness of Christ.  Today we hear Christ declaring, “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you…”  This prophecy, from Malachi 3:1 is fulfilled only three chapters later in the Bible as John makes his appearance in Matthew 3:1.  To my knowledge, it is the quickest prophecy fulfilled, at least in pages, in the Bible.
            Jesus shares two facts about John the Baptist: “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women, there has been none greater than John the Baptist…”  Here Jesus points out that as great as Abraham, Noah, Moses or David were, John the Baptist is greater.  This, not because of his own merits, but because John saw the Messiah.  John announced the coming of Christ and was a bridge between the Old and the New.
            Yet Jesus adds, “…yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”  Remember, John the Baptist was beheaded during Jesus’ public ministry.  Thus, he did not live long enough to see the salvific act of Christ on the cross.  Because of this, the apostles, disciples and all of us, in a sense, are even greater than John the Baptist.
            As we rejoice on Gaudete Sunday, we continue to be patient for the Lord’s coming.  We praise God for his messenger—John the Baptist—and are especially gracious for seeing, with eyes of faith, what John the Baptist did not.

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