Third Sunday of Advent
December 15-16, 2018
Rejoice in the Lord Always!
From Fr. Anthony Ligato
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Today we rejoice for our Saviors coming is at hand. The Third Sunday of Advent is known in Latin as Gaudete Sunday. The translation of the word Gaudete is to Rejoice. This Sunday is so named from our second reading from Philippians 4:47, “Rejoice in the Lord always”. The Third Sunday of Advent is also the third week of our Advent retreat. Each of the previous two Sundays we have focused on the Jesus of Advent and how we come to know and recognize Jesus as the Son of God in the scriptures. The titles of the Jesus of Advent reveal who Jesus is, why has He come into the world and what will he do. The First Sunday of Advent revealed Jesus as Son of Man and Son of David. As Son of Man he brings God’s divine Judgment which is loving and merciful. As Son of David he ushers in the Kingdom of God. On the Second Sunday of Advent we came to know Jesus as Messiah and Prophet. As the promised Messiah he brings recreation into the world through his suffering, death and resurrection as the Son of God. As prophet he fulfills the promise made long ago through the words of the prophets. He is the word made flesh, the living embodiment of God’s prophetic word.
On this Third Sunday of Advent Jesus is revealed to us as the anointed one of God, “Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ.” (Luke 3: 1018) John answers by saying, “One mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.” John reveals himself not as the Christ but rather as the precursor to the Christ. The baptism that he was offering in the Jordan was a preparation for the Christ. John points to Jesus as the Christ, the anointed one and so the fifth title for the Jesus of Advent is the Christ. The people asked John what they should do. John calls them to far exceed what they are currently doing in their lives as people of faith.
In the same way the Prophet Zephaniah (3:1418a) exhorts the people of Israel to return to God with Faithfulness. The people of Israel had turned to false God’s prior to the exile in Babylon and Zephaniah who himself inspired Jeremiah
calls them to reconsecrate their lives to God. His message is one of rejoicing not condemnation. He calls them to prepare for the Day of the Lord, “Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged. The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.” The Christ, God’s anointed one brings gladness into the world. The Christ is God’s servant. This servant is someone of importance. This servant has been anointed by God, meaning he has been chosen by God as his servant. This servant will suffer for the people of Israel. The suffering servant will bring restoration not to the land of Israel but to each person. So, the servant suffers for your sins and mine, for your failings and my failings. This servant will suffer vicariously for us. He will suffer in our place. Isaiah speaks about the suffering servant four different times in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah; 42:14, 49:16, 50:49 and 52:13 53:12. These are known as the Suffering Servant Songs.
Jesus presents himself after his baptism in the Jordan and battling the temptations in the desert as Christ and servant. He began his public preaching by entering the synagogue in Nazareth and speaking the words first prophesized by Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore, he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind and release to prisoners. To announce a year of favor from the Lord. (Luke 4:1819) Jesus as Christ and Servant has freed us from suffering and death through his own taking upon himself our sinfulness. We have all been freed from the captivity of sin, in what way has Jesus given you liberty by freeing you from captivity? Often, we are blinded by our own ambition and greed, how has Jesus brought greater insight to your life by allowing you to see yourself more clearly? We build the walls of our own prisons brick by brick, sin by sin, selfish deed by selfish deed. What prison has Jesus released you from by His willingness to be a suffering servant? Jesus was anointed for this, to bring glad tidings to the poor and therefore we rejoice on this Third Sunday of Advent. For happily we are all the poor who need our Lord’s liberty and release.
As the anointed, Christ has served God the Father by suffering and dying on the cross. In turn we then are anointed servants to announce glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and release to prisoners. To announce a year of favor from the Lord. What Jesus has done for us, we are to do for one another, Rejoice and bring these glad tidings to all whom we encounter.
Yours in Christ,