Third Sunday of Advent
First reading: Is 61:1-2, 10-11
Responsorial psalm: Lk 1:46-50, 53-54
Second reading: 1 Thes 5:16-24
Gospel: Jn 1:6-8, 19-28
By Jem Sullivan | Catholic News Service
On this Third Sunday of Advent, traditionally known as Gaudete Sunday, the church invites us to recover a spirit of gratitude, expressed in love of those in need and those close to us.
As this unprecedented year ends, God’s word reminds us to be thankful for the gift of faith that sustains us through the uncertainties of this time. To renew in us an Advent spirit of gratitude there are many examples of those who persevere through suffering in body, mind and spirit during this challenging year.
Take Anthony, a 93-year-old World War II Navy veteran from New York, who contracted the virus in the early months of the pandemic. At his age, the chances of recovery were slim yet his eight children insisted on home care so he would not suffer or die alone in a hospital. Two of his daughters took care of him, day and night, and were eventually infected with the virus.
Gradually Anthony recovered as he was strengthened by his family. He expressed his gratitude to God when he said, “God has always been good to me … and my daughters were right there the whole time taking such good care of me. They were angels looking out for me.”
In the Gospel, John the Baptist, the Advent saint, says he is “the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord.” All that we have comes from the loving hand of God, and if we ponder carefully there is no limit to what we could be grateful to God for. Precisely in this tumultuous year we see how God’s constant love, unrelenting mercy, and providential care makes straight the crooked paths of human existence.
This Sunday’s responsorial psalm is taken from Mary’s hymn of praise, known as the Magnificat. We hear Mary, exultant in grateful prayer, teaching us how to pray with a heart of thanksgiving to God. We join in Mary’s prayer saying, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”
We take to heart the words of Isaiah who says, “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul,” and St. Paul’s encouragement to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: Rejoice!”
It’s not too late to begin the spiritual journey of Advent. Offering to God a simple prayer of thanksgiving for the minor and major gifts of life is one way to get back on the spiritual track you may have hoped to travel this Advent.
As the hectic pace of the season leaves little time for prayer and spiritual preparation we may be tempted to discouragement. But God’s word reaches into our lives again to renew us with Advent hope and joy.
We are called, once again, into the great mystery of God’s Incarnation in human history with its divine promise of healing and transformation in God. If we have lagged behind, we can still begin our Advent preparations believing that God’s word fills us with Advent gratitude to say confidently, “speak to me, Lord.”
For what and how will I express my gratitude to God this Advent?
Jem Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.