December 17, 2017
The Third Sunday Of Advent
Isaiah 61: 1-4; 10-11 / Psalm 126
1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 24 / John 1: 6-8; 19-28
Fr. Roberto M. Jorvina
This Third Sunday of Advent is known as the Gaudete Sunday or Rejoice Sunday. Purple is transformed to rose. Despite the fact that we are preparing and are busy preparing with our hearts repenting of our sins, there is joy in the preparation. There is joy in Christianity.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16, the very first words that St. Paul said to us is, “Rejoice, always.” It may not seem dramatic today because after all, we are in the season of joy that the world says. There are the parties, the bonuses, the vacations, the gifts that abound, and the family reunions. The message of joy does not seem to fit since we have all of these. This is where we fail to realize that most of the joy that is joy today is really fun and amusement. It is temporal and revelry. Believe me or not, on January 2, 2018, when you wake up, you will be sad because you think that Christmas is already over.
This is the difference between the fun and the joy that we see all around and the joy that Christianity is making us understand. The joy that we have is permanent even after the Season, and this is why we are encouraged to rejoice always because joy is everlasting. It will never cease.
The themes for Advent carry the word pure: Pure Diligence; Pure Preparation; Pure Witness. The word ‘pure’ means something that is not mixed with anything else other than the essential substance. In our lives, there are things that are not bad for us, but when we put things that are not really essential that will draw us to Christ, and make us realize that we are purely Christ’s, then, it is not pure anymore. Watching TV is not wrong, but when it comes against the things that are pure in the Spirit of God, then, maybe, watching TV is wrong. Having friends is not wrong, but when our friends begin to draw us away from the purity of our faith, then, maybe we should bid goodbye to them.
The essence of Advent is to make us realize that our lives are purely Christ’s. To understand this, we look at the personality in John the Baptist. He led a pure life, though eccentric and weird, but the essence is pure. He is the model of true joy. In this Sunday, not only is he the model of purity of being a pure witness, John the Baptist is also the essence of pure joy. When his mother Elizabeth was visited by her cousin, Mary, the baby in her leaped with joy when Mary greeted her. Inside the womb, John the Baptist was an apostle and a servant of joy.
There are two things that characterize the purity and the joy of John the Baptist’s life. The first characteristic is that John the Baptist had a clear vision of God. He knew his God. In John 1:6, it says that there was a man sent from God. Like Isaiah the prophet saying in Isaiah 6, “I saw the Lord. He was high and lifted up and His train filled the temple.” Isaiah knew God. John the Baptist knew God. In John 3:33-34, “He who has received His witness has set his zeal to this, that God is true. For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.” John the Baptist had a clear vision of God. Do we have a clear vision of God? The first step in Advent is to see God in His reality.
When we talk about Advent, there are three aspects in the coming of Christ. We talk of His coming at the end of the age – His second coming, and we are expectant of that God is true. We talk about His first coming when He was born in the stable in the manger. What we often miss is the third aspect of the coming of Christ. That aspect is the coming of Christ in our hearts. He has come into our hearts. Do we receive him? This last aspect is dependent on us. We open that door and allow Christ so that we will not be like the innkeeper who said, “There is no room for Him in the inn.”
The only time when Christ cannot come is when our hearts are already filled with worries, with anxieties, with concerns, with making money. Christ wants to come and this is what Advent is all about. It is His coming into our hearts. Receiving Christ is not like a one- time event. Just because we said a sinner’s prayer ten years ago, that is the end of our faith. The coming of Christ is a daily experience.
Let us see Christ as Isaiah saw Him. Isaiah says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” He was talking about Christ and what Christ would be doing. “Because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted.” Isaiah was talking about Christ coming to his life so that he could prepare the way. This is the same with John the Baptist. He talked about Christ in him. Christ in us, the hope of glory.
The second characteristic of the purity and joy like in the life of John the Baptist is to have a clear vision of ourselves. John the Baptist had a clear vision of himself. He knew the purpose of his life. He knew the meaning of his life. In John 1:19, John said, “I am not the Christ. I am not Elijah. I am not the prophet.” John had the purpose of his life. He was secure in what he did. He had the purity of joy, and this is why he had the purity of witness. He knew what God wanted him to do. He knew that he was just a voice crying out in the wilderness, making straight the way of the Lord.
Today, we are so pumped up with self-esteem that we think we can do everything. We think we can be the one that can save our families. We think we can be the one to earn our living. We fail to realize that we are just unworthy vessels so that Christ may live His life in and through us. This is our identity, and this is who we are – God’s messengers, like John the Baptist. John the Baptist said, “I must decrease because He must increase.” He was taking on a supportive role for Christ. He was not asserting himself. He was not promoting himself. Neither was he self-sufficient because he knew he needed Christ. Do we know who we are? Do we have a clear vision of our purpose in life?
The reason we get so tied up and fed up is because we are tired of chasing things which are not really our purpose in life. Advent is supposed to make us contemplate and pause, so that we can put our priorities in order. Yes, we have a lot of things to do, but the Advent candles are screaming to us that we must know who we are. When January 2 comes, when we wake up in the morning, we would not say, “Oh God, it is a new day,” but rather, “It is a new day, thank God that He had made this day!” The joy should continue to linger, not to have a hangover of. It is truly something that will stay on and on.
How can we live in this purity and walk in the true joy? How can we be like John the Baptist who had a clear vision of God and a clear vision of himself and his purpose in life? First, we need to pray. Prayer teaches us the value and the beauty of waiting. Today, we have to rush to many things so we pray just to say that we did it. The number one enemy of prayer is hurry. Prayer teaches us to wait because we are not trusting on our own efforts. Now, we trust on a God who could do mighty deeds because we may do something well, but God can do it better and in fact, the best.
In our reading, we were encouraged to pray without ceasing. There must be a time that we can set apart and say, “Lord, I am committing this time in prayer.” It will take discipline. It may take real will power, but there is such a thing called amazing grace that draws not on our own strength and will power, but on God’s.
The second way to live in purity and to walk in true joy is to meditate on the Word of God. We cannot meditate on the Word of God if we don’t read it. In John 17:17, Jesus said, “Sanctify them with the truth; Your Word is truth.” How can we be made pure? How can we be made holy? It is by the Word of God! In John 15:3, Jesus says, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” We do ministry works, but one thing that will differentiate a Christian in doing the works of ministry is his drawing of strength from the Word of God. It is not social work, but we live by the Word of God.
I would like you to do two things today. First, memorize the Psalm 19:8 that says, “The precepts of the Lord are right; rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” Meditate and read it over and over again. John had a clear vision of God and a clear vision of his life. Our eyes will be enlightened by His word. Second, spend time in devoting yourselves to God in prayer. With the power of the Spirit of God, if we take God seriously this week, we will see a different Christmas this year. Take this challenge and God will give you the grace to do this.