The 3rd Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday -meaning, Sunday of joy. How does the word of God encourage us to rejoice in the manner that helps us also to advance on our advent journey?
Bible readings Zephaniah 3: 14–18 Isaiah 12: 2–6 Philippians 4 :4–7 Luc 3: 10–18
This Sunday you will probably see pink colour instead of the habitual violet, symbol of prayer and penitence. Pink, lighter colour, symbolises joy. Similarly, among the four candles on the Advent wreath you may have a pink one that will be lit. In so doing, we are reminded to keep in mind, and never lose sight of, the joy of meeting our savoir that inspires our prayer and penitence during Advent. Half-way through our journey, we take time to relish this experience of grace. Indeed, it’s important to celebrate the small victories we make along the way as a way of maintaining our zest. That’s why Paul, from prison in Rome, encourages Philippians:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
How do we profit of this joy, not as an excuse for laxity, but rather to take much more determined steps on the Advent journey?
What makes my joy
My joy comes from the scenario in the Gospel, where I find the attitude quite unusual. In fact, it connects me to the first words I learnt in French.
C’est pas moi, monsieur!
When I was learning French, during my missionary experience in Mali, West Africa, I used to attend different classes in schools just to learn to listen as others spoke French. Whenever a teacher stepped out of class, before another one came in, there were often moments of anarchy: animated conversations and jumping about -you know school children. But when a teacher came in and tried to identify the culprits, everyone was quick to exculpate himself: c’est pas moi, monsieur (It’s not I sir!). In the end, it’s like I was the only culprit for I couldn’t plead my innocent -language problem. We find similar attitude in Genesis.
Adam and Eve are not any different
When things go wrong in Eden and God poses a question, Adam responds, like those pupils, it’s not I sir -it’s Eve. And when God turns to Eve, she too pleads her innocence, throwing the fault on to the snake. Poor snake, if only it was capable of pleading innocent! Such attitude goes on even in our daily relations.
S/he doesn’t want to change!
When things don’t go well in a group or at a work place few persons will say I’m responsible for this. Most often the tendency is to look at others who become targets our accusing finger. In fact, such tendency is like a prison where couples are penned, incapable of coming out of their impasse. Each one blames the other, thinking the couple will be better off when that the other one changes. What a sterile waiting! The relationship hits the cul de sac -a dead end. Happily, the Gospel presents a scenario which I esteem can assure a breakthrough to a couple in difficulty.
“What then should we do?”
That’s the question that crowds ask John. When I participate in posing the question, I assume my responsibility and my attitude is no longer that of hunting for culprits responsible for what doesn’t work well. I realise that I’m part of this human community; I have contributed to what’s positive and to what’s negative too. Hence, I have a role to play also in the reparation. That’s what we find in the gospel when tax-collectors, soldiers and crowds ask John about what they should do. The question implies that conversion is for all; every person has something to work on.
Indeed, we hasten the realisation of the kingdom of God where we are when we join hands not only in assuming our responsibility for what doesn’t go well but also when we become proactive, that is, acting in the manner that builds peace and goodwill in society. The question calls also for introspection.
Some of us are husbands and fathers, wives and mothers, religious, priests, teachers, nurses, doctors, or managers -just to mention a few. Do we ever sit down to take stock of who we are, what we do and how we do it? It’s right in your couple and at your work place where you are called to prepare yourself to welcome the Lord. It’s there you are called to be holy.
Advent as collective effort
St John-Paul II spoke of sin as personal but also as social. Whatever we do affects others and our society. Our personal sins become sick spots on our society and on its institutions, in the end, we have structure of sin that may manifest itself through forms of injustice. So, Advent is time for us, as community, institution, or family to pose ourselves questions on the collective efforts that we can do for the human family. We shouldn’t be afraid to question ourselves; God is not a judge waiting to condemn culprits -he’s our savoir. That’s the joy of the canticle for this Sunday from Isaiah whose refrain goes like this: “Cry out with joy and gladness, for in your midst is the Holy One of Israel. But who’s this holy one of Israel? It’s God who’s our salvation; we shouldn’t fear him but rejoice in his saving presence among us.
So, in our collective effort for our conversion, especially for building a society of peace and fraternity, let us, in one voice, and in the joy of this Sunday, implore God in these words: Give us, Lord, a new heart and put within us a new spirit (cf. Ezekiel 36:26).
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