3rd Sunday Of Advent – Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Live In Joy”.
The first reading states that happiness is a demanding task, but is a gift that God will give to all men and women.
The first words of the second reading of today set the theme for this Sunday. The Christians are cheerful persons; they are happy since Christ has shown them the true meaning of life. Rich or poor, sick or healthy, Christians are always happy.
The Gospel teaches us that happy persons are the ones who listen to the Baptist, because they allow their minds and hearts to be opened; they recognize the Messiah and welcome his light.
Guide to ‘Live’ the Sunday Liturgy:
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
If at all possible, share this Bible Reflection time with a family member, a friend or someone you wish to bring to Christ. Jesus said in Mt. 18:20 – “For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.”
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests, bishops and Catholic theologians who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a ‘Prayer’ are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. With faith and perseverance, we will start to put into practice the Lord’s teachings; begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love, God’s will, and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator. Meditations and Prayer on the Reflections should be done daily – first thing in the morning and the last thing at night.
It may be necessary to pray and repeat the study of the Bible Readings and Commentaries more than once, or even on a daily basis, if you feel that you have not yet grasped the Lord’s special message for you.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11.
The first reading of today is the passage where the prophet Isaiah presents himself and his mission to the discouraged people of Israel. He has come he says, to bring hope and courage to the broken hearted; the Lord has anointed him to bring joyful news to the afflicted, to proclaim liberty to captives, to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.
Are the promises of this prophet fulfilled? Well, there is a bit of change, but the injustices, the corruption of leaders, and the insolent and arrogant behaviour of the rich continue. The poor begin to think that, yes, the Lord will accomplish his promise of liberty, joy and happiness but not immediately; we must wait for the coming of the Messiah. The experience of the people of Israel returning from Babylon is an image of what happens to those who return to God after experiencing the slavery of sin. These people might have gone through every type of pleasure, but they never enjoyed real peace, happiness and serenity. Most people, once they realize the meaningless state of their lives, reveal their problem to a wise friend, to a priest, or to a good Christian living in their village. In order to convince them to abandon their life of sin, this friend of theirs will utter the same words that the prophet in Babylon told the exiles: the new life will be an easy one, difficulties will all be overcome and their satisfaction will be great.
In reality it will not be all that simple. To rebuild a life spoiled by many mistakes and errors will prove to be difficult, since sin leaves in people deep and serious marks. Why, then, should the prophets promise such wonderful things? It is true that whoever finds courage to abandon slavery of sin and to return to the Father’s house will certainly find peace, happiness and every other type of good. This is not a result to be obtained immediately or miraculously: it is the fruit of hard work, of a long journey, of hard toiling against bad habits. One needs to be patient with oneself, and one has to take into account also many defeats and disappointments before achieving true freedom.
At the start of his public life, Jesus reads the consoling words of this prophet in the synagogue of his home-town of Nazareth, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me”, and comments: “This text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening”. Jesus assures his listeners that the long awaited new world is just beginning with him, a world where there will be no place for slavery, hunger, and disease and, above all, selfishness, hate and sin.
Resp. Psalm: Luke 1:46-50, 53-54.
The responsorial for today is from Mary’s lovely song, the ‘Magnificat’. There is much of joy here too: ‘my spirit has exulted in God my Saviour’; but notice how the joy comes from God’s astonishing ability to reverse the world’s self-imposed standards and popular way of thinking; instead of God applauding the well-to-do, ‘he has looked upon the lowliness of his slave-girl…the hungry he has filled with good things, and the affluent he has sent away empty’. There is a matter of great joy here, if we understand it properly.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24.
Paul gives advice on community life, and his first invitation is: “Always be joyful”. Joy is one of the ‘signs’ that characterize the presence of the ‘Kingdom of God’ in the hearts of people (Gal 5:22). What is the meaning of being joyful? Why should we be full of joy? Is our community a joyful one? It is not easy to achieve true and deep joy. Many people mistake joy for pleasure: the pleasure they find in alcohol, drugs, and adulterous activities. Others substitute it by useless things such as wild parties and celebrations, obsessive travel and beautiful things. Where should our joy come from? It comes from prayer and from the eagerness to serve our brothers and sisters. A community
grounded on these joyful foundations becomes ‘holy’. This holiness is the work of God.
John 1:6-8, 19-28.
The focus of this third Sunday of Advent is on the person of John the Baptist, particularly on his mission as a ‘witness’. He comes as one sent by God to bear witness to Christ, the ‘Word of God’ and the ‘Light’ that comes into the world. He sees himself as a voice that calls out to all to prepare a way for the Lord by true repentance, ‘a change of lifestyle’.
The Gospel is about John the Baptist, and we can say many good things about him but not that he was a cheerful person: he lived alone, away from other people, and when he left the desert to be among people, he threatened everybody with impending punishment. Yet we also read that he was capable of rejoicing. When he presented himself as “the friend of the Bridegroom,” he said that having recognized the voice of the ‘One’ who was to come, “he was filled with joy and his joy was complete (Jn. 3:29)”.
If we want to experience the joy of the Baptist, we must also be able to recognize the voice of the Bridegroom who comes to save us today. Where can this voice be heard, and how can it be distinguished from the many misleading voices we hear daily? How do we come to see Christ as the ‘Light’ of our life? There is only one-way: through the witness of someone who talks to us about him, just as the Baptist did. Faith, says Paul, is not the result of arguments or private revelations but comes from listening to someone who has first met the Christ (Rom. 10:14-17).
Let us try for a moment to see how we came to have faith. Which was the first “voice” that, told us about Jesus? What kind of a “voice” are our Christian communities? Do we at times, proclaim ourselves, rather than proclaim Christ, and thus hide the true Light from the people?
Christ stands among us unknown to others unless we witness to his presence. Am I a voice preparing the way for Christ in others? Or am I a voice that obscures his presence? Am I a witness to God in family, workplace and social life? Do I witness in my language, values, behaviour and attitudes? Am I proud of my religion when challenged and can I defend it? Does our parish community bring light to darkened lives, ‘Good News’ to the poor, hope to the down hearted and inner freedom to captives? Do we manifest Christ’s love to all who we meet? Or is Christ standing among us unknown and unrecognised? Christ is truly among us as he was then. Why do so many people fail to recognize him?
Israel was expecting the Messiah, but when he came, they did not recognize him. Why? The Baptist kept repeating: “Standing among you, unknown to you, is the one coming after me”. Something prevented them from recognizing him: their way of thinking and living. It is the same for many of us today. The ‘One’ the Baptist refers to is Jesus. He is the ‘One’, the only one, who can release us from bondage. For He is both truly human and truly God! In him we can repossess our true selves.
The people of the Baptist’s time, their minds and hearts were burdened by ideas, habits, religious and tribal traditions, and they were unwilling to change them. The Baptist vainly tried to open their eyes and ears by urging them to convert. The same thing could happen to us today if we refuse to follow the ‘Light of Christ’ that some “voice” is telling us about. We thus risk remaining in darkness and missing true joy. How can we recognize, among so many voices, the ‘One’ showing us the Light? The voice that proclaims God’s love and forgiveness and calls us to repentance is the voice we must follow.
On this ‘Laetare or Gaudete Sunday’, we rejoice in the nearness of the Lord. Anticipation of Christmas should focus our attention on Jesus, the source of true joy. Joy is listed by St. Paul as the second fruit of life rooted in the Spirit. Joy draws from three sources: from going beyond selfishness as it is in giving that we receive; from appreciation of all the goodness and beauty around us; above all, from our belief in God whose love is manifested in so many ways.
Be ‘joyful’ at all times; pray constantly; and for all things give thanks to God.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the
3rd Sunday of Advent Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … In the first reading, Isaiah speaks to the Israelites who are held in bondage during the Babylonian exile. He promises them release. Speaking of ‘One’ to come, he says, “the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring Good News to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord”. We see here a proclamation of Christ and a foreshadowing of certain aspects of the Church.
Mon. … This was indeed ‘good news’ for the Jewish exiles. It is ‘good news’ for us as well. For we, too have broken hearts; we too are captives in many ways; we too, are in prisons; and we too, have lost much of ourselves to foreign landlords, things foreign to our faith.
Tues. … The unfortunate truth is that we still live in bondage. Through poor decisions, we have put ourselves in shackles. These shackles prevent us from growing spiritually. Because we live within a false value system of modern society, we tend to become alienated from God and our true selves. It can be said that we really do not fully own ourselves; various taskmasters and things own us. Let us this Advent repossess ourselves through Christ our Redeemer.
Wed. … Paul tells the Thessalonians and us that; ‘freed in Christ we can now pursue a fruitful life’. We must rejoice always and pray without ceasing. We must not quench the Spirit, hold fast to what is good and abstain from every form of evil. Let pray this Advent that God will sanctify us entirely.
Thurs. … Let us reflect on the first ‘Voice’ that told us about Jesus and led us in the ‘Way’. What kind of voice are we to those struggling and are lost? Am I a voice preparing the way for Christ in others? Or am I a voice that obscures his presence? Am I a witness to God in family, workplace and social life? Do I witness in my language, values, behaviour and attitudes?
Frid. … Christ today is among us. We are all expecting him. Many still fail to recognize him. How can we as Christians help those who ‘cannot see the Messiah’ and who are blinded by their lack of faith? If our witness fails, let us pray that they may hear the voice that calls out to all to prepare a way for the Lord by a change of lifestyle.
Sat. … The Lord in his great mercy and love gives us and those who have (but do not share with those in need), a period of vindication. Advent is a period of second chances and a time to make anew. Will we take up this opportunity to put right past omissions and practice gratuitous love before it is too late?
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Heavenly Father, in joy, in hope and in love, we remain attentive for the coming of our Lord and Saviour. In preparing the way for the Lord, and by opening up our hearts for Christ to be the leading ‘Light’ in our lives. We pray that we may become true Christian witnesses for others to share in the ‘Light’ of Christ.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.