Sunday, 11 December 2022 : Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday marks the Third Sunday in the season of Advent, which is also known as the Gaudete Sunday. This comes from the Introit or the opening Antiphon of this Sunday’s Mass, ‘Gaudete in Domino semper…’ or ‘Rejoice in the Lord always…’ which reminds us of the Aspect of Joy that we focus on in this Sunday’s celebration of the season of Advent. Thus far, from the first Sunday, we have focused on the Aspect of Hope and then Peace on the second Sunday, and now the Aspect of Joy before the last Aspect of Love next Sunday. Thus, this Sunday we focus our attention on the joy that we have in us in anticipating and expecting the coming of the truly joyous celebration and occasion in Christmas that is coming really soon now. We rejoice because of the great joy and happiness in the coming of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Correspondingly, we can see that there are unique features of this Sunday which are not seen for the rest of the Advent season, much like that of Laetare Sunday in the season of Lent, as this Sunday we take some kind of short break from the more sombre and penitential nature and mood of this Advent season. Today we look upon the joy that is coming up in Christmas season, in the joy that our Lord Jesus has brought into our midst with His coming into this world. This joy is something that we look forward to, and expect with jubilation in our hearts, and yet, at the same time, still with solemn and some penitential nature due to our current Advent season as a reminder that while we rejoice, we also must temper down our rejoicing and most importantly, remain focused on the true reason for our joy, and not be overcome and overwhelmed by excesses of merrymaking and festivities that we forget why we celebrate in the first place.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah of God speaking to His people reminding all of them not to be fearful or afraid anymore, and that God will give them rest and new strength, freedom from their hardships and troubles, and they will return once again to Zion, singing and rejoicing because God is with them and that their days of trials and struggles are over. Back then, the people of God living in the kingdom of Judah where the prophet Isaiah ministered and worked as God’s prophet had suffered a lot of indignation and other forms of hardships at the hands of their enemies, and they had faced a lot of trials and difficulties, and such words from the Lord certainly must have brought about relief and great joy to everyone who listened to those words of God’s consolation and reassurance.

Because of their sins, the people of God had been scattered and humiliated, and parts of the people had been crushed, conquered and exiled by their enemies, such as much of the ten of the twelve tribes of Israel living in the northern kingdom of Israel, which had succumbed to the Assyrians merely few decades prior to the coming of these words of the Lord through Isaiah. At a time of great trials and challenges for God’s people, therefore, this reassurance truly must have been like a great light piercing the darkness of despair, doubt and suffering among the people of God. At that time, God intervened on their behalf, crushing and defeating the massive army of the Assyrian king sent to Judah and Jerusalem to conquer them. God protected His people and led them all to triumph against their enemies, and the retreat of the Assyrians in shame must have been truly joyful for the people who were there, witnessing God’s providence and presence among them.

But that is not just what the Lord would do for His people, as it was just merely one of the many occasions in which God cared for His beloved ones, protecting and guiding them throughout their journey. He would send them all, and all of the children of mankind, just as He has promised, His own only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. By the incarnation of this Son of God, the Divine Word Incarnate, God has come among His people in the flesh, tangible and approachable, as the conquering and great Light that pierced through the darkness of this world, and which brought a new Hope into our midst, the Hope for the Resurrection and eternal life, of eternal bliss and true joy that we shall receive and enjoy forevermore in the Holy Presence of God.

That is what we heard in our second and Gospel reading passages today, as St. James detailed upon us all in his Epistle the reminder for all of us the faithful, that God is coming again in glory, at the time of His choosing, and we ought to look up to Him and be hopeful, as well as being patient, awaiting for His coming and return to our midst, while being reassured of His ever continued presence and love for us. In the meantime, we are all therefore expected to be righteous, holy and just, just as our Lord, loving God and Father is also righteous, all holy and just. Our Gospel passage today reminds us that the Lord Himself has come into this world, to fulfil all the promises that He has made to us, to redeem us, to heal us from our sickness, maladies, and most importantly, the bondage and shackles of sin and death that have kept us apart from Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, once again, as we focus our attention this Sunday on the more joyful aspect of our Advent observance, let us all first and foremost remind ourselves of why we celebrate and rejoice at all in this time of Advent and Christmas. We ought to keep in mind that the true joy of Christmas is not referring to all the celebrations, festivities, merrymaking and all the things that we commonly associated as the joyful celebration and nature of Christmas. Instead, it is the reason why Christmas exists in the first place that is the reason why we celebrate and rejoice, and that is, the coming of our great Lord and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, the One Whom God had sent into our midst, that through Him we may have redemption and liberation from our impending destruction because of our many sins, wickedness and evils.

Let us reflect on this and ask ourselves if our focus and emphasis during this preparatory time of Advent has been correct, or whether we have been swayed and distracted by the many temptations present all around us, of worldly excesses and attachments, the desires for pleasures, comforts and worldly satisfaction and joys. We do not have to go far but look all around us to see just how secular our Christmas celebrations have often become. In many places, Christmas has become no more than just another holiday and another celebration, where everyone cannot wait to show off and indulge in the most lavish and extravagant celebrations and merrymaking possible. People put so much emphasis on the festivities that they tend to forget what the festivities and celebrations are all for, that is Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, for His love and His act in our redemption, for Him for Whom Christmas is named after.

That is why, brothers and sisters, as Christians, we should lead by our own good examples by making sure that we do not give in to the temptation of worldly pleasures and excesses, and keep reminding ourselves of the true joy that we uphold and focus on in our Christmas celebrations, even as we now prepare for all the festivities and merrymaking. Christ should be at the centre of it all, and we should make sure that every part of our communities, our families and all with whom we partake the Christmas celebrations, we have to place Christ, the Joy of Christmas, right at the centre and as the focus of everything, or else, our Christmas celebrations will in fact become empty and meaningless. Christmas is not a celebration about ourselves and our ego or greed, but is instead a celebration of our joy at the love of God made Man, through Whom He has brought us the assurance of eternal joy and life.

Lastly, let us also not forget that there are some among our brethren who are not truly able to celebrate Christmas with joy, like those whose Christian faith had to be kept secret because of persecutions and all the hardships that even quite a number of our fellow Christians still face all around the world. And there are also those who do not have the means to celebrate because of their various hardships and challenges in life. There are those who cannot even make ends meet each day and less still the ability to celebrate. In whatever way we can do, let us help them either spiritually or in material, through our prayers and charity, and also by sharing the joy that we have, so that through us, our less fortunate brethren may also experience the Joy of Christ in Christmas.

May the Lord, our most loving God and Creator, Who has given us Jesus Christ, His Son, born on Christmas Day, as our Light and Hope, continue to strengthen us and guide us in our journey so that by our faith and dedication to Him, through a worthy celebration of Christmas and our preparation this Advent, we may draw ever closer to Him and to His saving grace. May God bless us all in our every good endeavours, our efforts, actions and works, and bless our Advent preparations and observances. May all of us have a truly blessed and fruitful Advent. Amen.

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