Advent with Nazareth Retreat Center is a series of short reflections on timely issues facing our world today in relation to the Gospel message for each Sunday of Advent. It is the Sisters’ hope and prayer that these reflections will be a source of wisdom, insight, inspiration, and closeness to God during a time in our world’s history where observing this sacred time of year, as usual, is not possible.
Thank you for listening to these reflections. The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth pray that you have a blessed, safe, and healthy Advent!
REFLECTION FOR THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT 2020
Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11 1 Thes. 5:16-24 John 1:6-8, 19-28
Today is Gaudete Sunday, a Latin word that means REJOICE. The Church quietly symbolizes the call to REJOICE by changing from Advent purple to pink or rose-colored vestments.
In the first two readings and in the responsorial psalm we hear the word REJOICE no less than seven times. Isaiah calls the Jewish exiles in Babylon to REJOICE as he proclaims the good news that God, who acts in history, is about to free them from forty years of captivity. (Is. 61:1)
Paul tells the Thessalonians to REJOICE always because the God who calls them is faithful. He assures them that God’s sanctifying action is taking place even as they await the second coming of Christ. In the Responsorial Psalm, we ourselves experience a deepening joy as we pray with Mary the familiar words of her Magnificat, “My soul rejoices in my God.”
While the gospel does not contain the word REJOICE, it does illuminate the path to the enduring joy proclaimed in the first two scripture readings. In the gospel, we hear an intense dialogue between two sets of messengers: the priests and Levites sent by religious officials in Jerusalem and John, sent from God to bear witness to the light. (Jn.1:8) The Jews from Jerusalem want to know John’s identity and credentials. They ask: Who are you? What do you have to say of yourself? Why are you baptizing?
In response, John firmly roots his identity in who he is NOT: He is NOT the Christ, the long-awaited Anointed One who would restore the kingdom to Israel; he is NOT Elijah, the fiery prophet who was expected to return before the coming of the Messiah; he is NOT the Prophet, a spokesperson like Moses who would reveal God’s will to the people. (Dt. 18:5)
John describes himself simply as a VOICE crying out in the desert. John’s message, like that of Isaiah, was a prophetic call to the people to be AWAKE and AWARE of God’s saving action in their lives. (Is. 40:3) John informs the Jews that his baptism Is a ritual of cleansing that signifies a turning towards God, a change of heart, and openness to God’s love and grace. (Jn.1:27) Directing the attention of the Jews away from himself, John declares “…there is one among you whom you do not know.”