Sunday, 12 December 2021 : Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Gaudete Sunday) or Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we celebrate the occasion of the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday. On this day we may have noticed that the vestments used are rose in colour instead of the usual purple or violet. This colour is only used twice in the entire liturgical year, one of which is today and the other one at Laetare Sunday on the Fourth Sunday of Lent. This Gaudete Sunday is named as such because of the words of its Introit at the start of the Mass, ‘Gaudete in Domino semper…’ which means ‘Rejoice in the Lord forever…’

Just as the previous two Sundays of Advent we focus on the aspects of Hope and Peace in Advent. Today therefore we focus on the aspect of Joy in this Advent season. That aspect of Joy is why we have a more cheerful tone as compared to the more restrained and sombre nature of our Christmas preparations throughout this season of Advent. This focus on Joy is a reminder for all of us that we are preparing ourselves this Advent for the coming of the True Joy of Christmas, that is the salvation that has come to us through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Salvation.

In our first reading today, all of us heard from the Book of the prophet Zechariah, in which the Lord reassured all of His people through Zechariah that He has always watched over them and He will always love them and care for them. God will bless them all and He will not abandon them to their fate. We must understand the context of what happened during the time of the prophet Zechariah. The prophet Zechariah lived and worked during the time of the early Persian Empire, likely according to historical evidence, during the reign of King Darius the Great.

At that time, the people of Israel, descendants of those who have lived in the old lands of Israel, the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, had just returned from their long exile in Babylon and other far-off lands, after God had redeemed them and liberated them through the Great King of Persia, Cyrus the Great. They and their ancestors had faced great humiliation and sufferings due to their own infidelities and stubbornness, their abandonment of God, His laws and commandments. They had been brought low and defeated, their lands and cities laid to waste, Jerusalem destroyed with its Temple cast down.

Therefore, the words of the Lord through the prophet Zechariah were reminder for God’s own people that even as they endured trials and sufferings, God was still with them, and as they themselves experienced their emancipation and liberation, they ought to be joyful for the Lord’s providence and love. Having been allowed to return to their own homeland and once again gathering as a people and community, no longer scattered among the nations, and even having their Temple of God rebuilt with the support of the Persian King, all these were more than enough reasons for them to rejoice.

The prophet Isaiah as we heard in our Psalm today also reiterated this, as he spoke words of rejoicing in God’s salvation and providence, in all that He had done for His people. God has blessed us all His people and He has done many wonderful things for us, and hence, all of us ought to rejoice and to be glad because God and His presence among us, in His coming to this world through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, has guaranteed us that eternal life and salvation, if we have faith in Him and believe in Him wholeheartedly.

Today, in our second reading, taken from the Epistle that St. Paul wrote to the Church and the faithful in Philippi, we also heard the same exhortation to the faithful to rejoice because God is by our side, and He has always remained by our side through good times and bad times, and He has always guided us and patiently showed us His love all these while. We have been so fortunate to have been favoured by God in such a way, that He even gave us all the perfect gift, the best of all, that is the gift of His salvation through Christ.

We rejoice and should no longer be fearful or afraid, as God’s words are trustworthy and He has always fulfilled His promises, no matter what. He sent us St. John the Baptist as we heard in our Gospel passage today, to be the Herald proclaiming His coming to the world and also to prepare the way for Him in this world. St. John the Baptist proclaimed God’s Good News and truth, revealing to all of the people what God was going to do in order to save them. He also revealed to them, when He came, the Messiah of God, Jesus Christ.

All of us have been reminded throughout all these readings from the Sacred Scriptures today, of the wonderful love of God made manifest through Christ, His Son, Whom He had sent to us, and Whose coming we celebrate this Christmas. That is why this Sunday we focus on the aspect of Joy in Advent, the anticipation if the great Joy that we are going to celebrate in Christmas, for having received God’s grace and salvation, and for having been blessed by this opportunity we have to know God and His ever generous love.

And it is timely and proper today that we spend some time to reflect on the nature of the Joy that we are expecting this Christmas. Is this joy referring to the festivities and celebrations that we are planning and hoping to do this Christmas? Are we looking ahead to the merrymaking and bling of our Christmas parties, and yet forgetting about what Christmas is truly about and why we celebrate it? This is the time for us to reflect on how we should focus our Christmas joy and celebrations that we may better appreciate what its true importance and meaning are to us.

Is Christ the true Joy of our lives? And are we joyful because He has come to us and having loved and cared for us so much, despite of our stubbornness and sinfulness? Or are we joyful because we are merely looking for pleasure and gratification in all the festivities and merrymaking? Have we prepared ourselves well that we may truly know what it is that bring joy to our lives and existence? Christmas is a time for us to rejoice indeed, and this Sunday we have a glimpse and preview of that joy, but we must constantly remind ourselves lest we are distracted by the many temptations offered by the secular celebrations of Christmas that are focused not on God but on ourselves and our worldly desires.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we gather together to celebrate this Gaudete Sunday, the Joy in the season of Advent, our joyful expectation of the coming of Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, let us all remind ourselves that we celebrate because we are happy for the hope that Christ has brought us, and we are grateful for the assurance and peace that He has brought us all by His coming into this world. Let us not be distracted and be overtaken by the excesses of the pleasures and merrymaking of the secular Christmas celebrations, and instead let us be the role model and example in how each and every one of us can celebrate Christmas worthily in a meaningful way.

How do we do so? It is by sharing the Joy of Christmas with one another, especially with those who have no such privilege to celebrate Christmas the way that many of us do every year. There are many out there who cannot celebrate Christmas because they were not allowed to do so, and even were oppressed and persecuted for being Christians. Many therefore had to celebrate Christmas in secret, while holding on to that Joy that they also anticipate for the coming of the day of their liberation and freedom, for the day of their emancipation much like how the Israelites once longed for theirs.

Let us therefore do whatever we can to bear the joy of Christ to the world, by our actions and by whatever we can do to help our brethren who are lacking in joy and who have yet to appreciate and understand the true Joy of Christmas, that is Christ, Our Lord. Let us be the ones to bring forth joy, happiness and smile to our brethren, especially as we know so many people who are still suffering, sorrowful and in terrible state after the troubles and challenges many of us have been facing in the past two years.

May the Lord, our true source of Joy, the true Joy and the reason for our Christmas celebrations be with us always. May He bless us all and may He strengthen each and every one of us in faith, so that we may always, by our exemplary Christian living, faith and joy, bring forth the true joy of Christ into this world, to restore the joy to a world drowning in sorrow and darkness. May God bless us all and be with us, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 12 December 2021 : Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Gaudete Sunday) or Purple/Violet

Luke 3 : 10-18

At that time, John said to the tax collectors, “Collect no more than your fixed rate.” Then some soldiers asked John, “What about us? What are we to do?” And he answered, “Do not take anything by force, or threaten the people by denouncing them falsely. Be content with your pay.”

The people were wondering about John’s identity, “Could he be the Messiah?” Then John answered them, “I baptise you with water, but the One Who is coming will do much more : He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. As for me, I am not worthy to untie His sandal. He comes with a winnowing fan, to clear His threshing floor, and gather the grain into His barn. But the chaff He will burn, with fire that never goes out.”

With these, and many other words, John announced the Good News to the people.