Third Sunday of Advent
1) Zep 3:14-18
Responsorial psalm: Is 12:2-6
2) Phil 4:4-7
Gospel: Lk 3:10-18
When Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to the humble Aztec peasant, Juan Diego, in 1531, she spoke tender and uplifting words, as of a spiritual mother comforting her children amid their fears.
The early 16th century was a time of religious, political and social distress in Europe and in the New World, not unlike our own tumultuous times.
As Juan Diego traveled around the hill of Tepeyac he was burdened personally by the illness of Juan Bernadino, his uncle. Into the depths of his fears and the anxieties of his native people, Mary spoke these motherly words of comfort and assurance of divine help in times of trouble:
“Listen, put it into your heart, my youngest son, that what frightened you, what afflicted you is nothing; do not let it disturb your face, your heart; do not fear this sickness or any other sickness, nor any sharp or hurtful thing.
“Am I not here, I who have the honor to be your mother? Are you not in my shadow and under my protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need anything more?”
On this Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday, the word of God invites us to set aside our fears and anxieties to receive God’s astonishing gift of his son Jesus, the word made flesh. The Scriptures invite us to sing joyfully as we anticipate the nearness of God who draws closer.
So, the prophet Zephaniah urges the people of Israel to “shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! … Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!”
The deepest longings of the people of Israel, expressed in the promises of the Old Testament are about to be fulfilled in the wondrous coming of God in the flesh in Jesus, the poor divine child of Bethlehem.
The responsorial psalm gives us words to cry out with joy and gladness for the coming of the great and Holy One of Israel as we sing, “God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid. My strength and my courage is the Lord.”
And the apostle Paul exhorts the Philippians, and us, to “rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: Rejoice! … The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.”
Finally, John the Baptist, the first evangelizer and Advent saint par excellence, calls the people to repentance as he points humbly to Jesus as the messiah who reveals the face of God’s eternal love and mercy.
As we continue Advent preparations may we replace the fears and anxieties that weigh us down with joyful expectation of the revelation of God’s eternal love in the light that Jesus brings into the darkness of this world as we pray, “speak to me, Lord.”
For what do you give joyful praise to God today as you prepare for Jesus’ coming?
Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.