ON THE 3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR A (GAUDETE SUNDAY)
ON THE 3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR A (GAUDETE SUNDAY)
Saint Peter’s Square
3rd Sunday of Advent Year A, 11 December 2022
Dear brothers and sisters, blessed Sunday!
The Gospel of this third Sunday of Advent speaks to us about John the Baptist who, while in prison, sends his disciples to ask Jesus: “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Mt 11:4). Indeed, John, hearing of Jesus’ works, is seized with doubt as to whether He is really the Messiah or not. In fact, he imagined a stern Messiah who would come and do justice with power by chastising sinners. Now, on the contrary, Jesus has words and gestures of compassion towards all; at the centre of His action is the mercy that forgives, whereby “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (v. 6). It does us good, however, to look more closely at this crisis of John the Baptist, as it can tell us something important too.
The text emphasizes that John is in prison, and this, as well as being a physical place, makes us think of the inner situation he is experiencing: in prison there is darkness, there is no possibility of seeing clearly and seeing beyond it. In effect, the Baptist is no longer able to recognize Jesus as the awaited Messiah. He is assailed by doubt, and he sends the disciples to check: “Go and see if he is the Messiah or not”. It surprises us that this should happen to John, the one who had baptized Jesus in the Jordan and had indicated him to his disciples as the Lamb of God (cf. Jn 1:29). But this means that even the greatest believer goes through the tunnel of doubt. And this is not a bad thing; on the contrary, sometimes it is essential for spiritual growth: it helps us understand that God is always greater than we imagine Him to be. His works are surprising compared to our calculations; His actions are different, always, they exceed our needs and expectations; and therefore, we must never stop seeking Him and converting to His true face. A great theologian used to say that God “needs to be rediscovered in stages… sometimes believing that we are losing Him” (H. DE LUBAC, Sur les chemins de Dieu). This is what the Baptist does: in doubt, he still seeks Him, questions Him, “argues” with Him and finally rediscovers Him. John, defined by Jesus as the greatest among those born of women (cf. Mt 11:11), teaches us, in short, not to close God within our own mindsets. This is always the danger, the temptation: to make ourselves a God to our measure, a God to use. And God is something else.
Brothers and sisters, we too at times find ourselves in his situation, in an inner jail, unable to recognize the newness of the Lord, whom we perhaps hold captive in the presumption that we already know everything about Him. Dear brothers and sisters, one never knows everything about God, never! Perhaps we have in mind a powerful God who does what He wants, instead of the God of humble meekness, the God of mercy and love, who always intervenes respecting our freedom and our choices. Perhaps we even find ourselves saying to Him: “Are you really you, so humble, the God who is coming to save us?”. And something similar can happen to us with our brothers and sisters too: we have our ideas, our prejudices and we attach rigid labels to others, especially those we feel are different to us. Advent, then is a time for overturning our perspectives, for letting ourselves be surprised by God’s mercy. Astonishment: God always astonishes. We saw, not long ago, in the television programme “A Sua Immagine”, they were talking about wonder. God is always the One who stirs wonder in you. A time – Advent – in which, preparing the Nativity display for the Infant Jesus, we learn again who our Lord is; a time to leave behind certain preconceptions and prejudices about God and our brothers and sisters. Advent is a time in which, instead of thinking about gifts for ourselves, we can give words and gestures of consolation to those who are wounded, as Jesus did with the blind, the deaf and the lame.
May Our Lady take us by the hand, like a mother, may she take us by the hand in these days of preparation for Christmas, and help us recognize in the smallness of the Infant the greatness of God who is coming.
Saint Peter’s Square
3rd Sunday of Advent Year A, 15 December 2019
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
On this third Sunday of Advent, known as the Sunday “of joy”, the Word of God invites us on the one hand to joy, and on the other hand to the awareness that existence also includes moments of doubt, in which it is difficult to believe. Joy and doubt are both experiences that are part of our lives.
To the explicit invitation to joy of the prophet Isaiah: “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom” (35: 1), the Gospel opposes the doubt of John the Baptist: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Mt 11: 3). Indeed, the prophet sees beyond the situation; he discouraged people before him: weak hands, trembling knees, lost hearts (cf. 35: 3-4). It is the same reality that in every age puts faith to the test. But the man of God looks beyond, because the Holy Spirit makes his heart feel the power of His promise, and he announces salvation: “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance” (v. 4). And then everything is transformed: the desert blooms, consolation and joy take possession of the lost of heart, the lame, the blind, the mute are healed (cf. vv. 5-6). This is what is realized with Jesus: “The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Mt 11: 5).
This description shows us that salvation envelops the whole person and regenerates him. But this new birth, with the joy that accompanies it, always presupposes a death to ourselves and to the sin within us. Hence the call to conversion, which is the basis of the preaching of both the Baptist and Jesus; in particular, it is a question of converting our idea of God. And the time of Advent stimulates us to do this precisely with the question that John the Baptist poses to Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Mt 11: 3). We think: all his life John waited for the Messiah; his lifestyle, his very body is shaped by this expectation. This is also why Jesus praises him with those words: no one is greater than him among those born of a woman (cf. Mt 11: 11). Yet he too had to convert to Jesus. Like John, we too are called to recognize the face that God chose to assume in Jesus Christ, humble and merciful.
Advent is a time of grace. It tells us that it is not enough to believe in God: it is necessary to purify our faith every day. It is a matter of preparing ourselves to welcome not a fairy-tale character, but the God who challenges us, involves us and before whom a choice is imposed. The Child who lies in the manger has the face of our brothers and sisters most in need, of the poor who are “a privileged part of this mystery; often they are the first to recognize God’s presence in our midst” (Apostolic Letter Admirabile signum, 6).
May the Virgin Mary help us so that, as we approach Christmas, let us not allow ourselves to be distracted by external things, but make room in our hearts for the One Who has already come and Who wishes to come again to heal our illnesses and to give us His joy.
3rd Sunday of Advent Year A, 11 December 2016
Saint Peter’s Square
3rd Sunday of Advent, 15 December 2013
Thank you! Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,
Today is the Third Sunday of Advent, which is called Gaudete Sunday; that is, the Sunday of joy. In the Liturgy the invitation rings out several times to rejoice, why? Because the Lord is near. Christmas is near. The Christian message is called the ‘Gospel’; i.e. ‘good news’, an announcement of joy for all people; the Church is not a haven for sad people, the Church is a joyful home! And those who are sad find joy in her, they find in her true joy!
However, the joy of the Gospel is not just any joy. It consists in knowing one is welcomed and loved by God. As the Prophet Isaiah reminds us today (cf. 35:1-6a, 8a, 10), God is he who comes to save us and who seeks to help, especially those who are fearful of heart. His coming among us strengthens us, makes us steadfast, gives us courage, makes the desert and the steppe rejoice and blossom; that is, when our lives becomes arid. And when do our lives become arid? When they lack the water of God’s Word and his Spirit of love. However great our limitations and dismay, we are not allowed to be sluggish and vacillating when faced with difficulty and our own weakness. On the contrary, we are invited to strengthen the weak hands, to make firm the feeble knees, to be strong and to fear not, because our God always shows us the greatness of his mercy. He gives us the strength to go forward. He is always with us in order to help us to go forward. He is a God who loves us so very much, he loves us and that is why he is with us, to help us, to strengthen us, help us go forward. Courage! Always forward! Thanks to his help, we can always begin again. How? Begin again from scratch. Someone might say to me: “No, Father, I did so many reprehensible things … I am a great sinner…. I cannot begin from scratch!”. You are wrong! You can begin from scratch! Why? Because he is waiting for you, he is close to you, he loves you, he is merciful, he forgives you, he gives you the strengthen to begin again from scratch! Everybody! And so we are able to open our eyes again, to overcome sadness and mourning to strike up a new song. And this true joy remains even amid trial, even amid suffering, for it is not a superficial joy; because it permeates the depths of the person who entrusts himself to the Lord and confides in him.
Christian joy, like hope, is founded on God’s fidelity, on the certainty that he always keeps his promises. The Prophet Isaiah exhorts those who have lost their way and have lost heart to entrust themselves to the faithfulness of the Lord, for his salvation will not delay in bursting into their lives. All those who have encountered Jesus along the way experience a serenity and joy in their hearts which nothing and no one can take away. Our joy is Jesus Christ, his faithful love is inexhaustible! Therefore, when a Christian becomes sad, it means that he has distanced himself from Jesus. But then we must not leave him alone! We should pray for him, and make him feel the warmth of the community.
May the Virgin Mary help us to hasten our steps to Bethlehem, to encounter the Child who is born for us, for the salvation and joy of all people. To her the angel said: “Hail, full of grace: the Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28). May she obtain for us the grace to live the joy of the Gospel in our families, at work, in the parish and everywhere. An intimate joy, fashioned of wonder and tenderness. The joy a mother experiences when she looks at her newborn baby and feels that he or she is a gift from God, a miracle for which she can only give thanks!
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