3rd Sunday of Advent

Is 61:1-2a, 10-11,       I Thess 5:16-24,     Jn 1:6-8, 19-28

A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin 5, and Ryan 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. “If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.’ Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, “Ryan, you be Jesus!”

The 3rd Sunday of Advent is called “Rejoice Sunday”.  That is what all the readings today point to. What will bring you joy and happiness? There are various types of joy and happiness; some are superficial and come and go but there is also deeper and lasting joy and happiness that abides and remains. This joyful season of advent reminds us where we are to find our joy. Advent reminds us that the joyful answer to our problems lies in God. True joy and happiness is to be found only in God.

The readings today remind us that God is our joy. In the first reading we heard Isaiah reminding us that God is the source of our joy, “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul; For he has clothed me with a robe of salvation, and wrapped me in a mantle of justice…(Isa 61:10). During this Advent time of looking to God as the answer to our deepest needs I especially like the line, “in my God is the joy of my soul.” We could use that line as an examination of conscience; is God the joy of our soul? Are we centered on God? Let us place God first because that is the only way to have joy.

Again during this Advent time of looking to God as the answer to our deepest needs I especially like the line, “my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” in today’s responsorial Psalm. What a joy for us to be saved by Jesus! But how unfortunate it is that we may live much of our day without realizing even how precious we are to God, that we are worth the price of Jesus’ precious blood and his life. We can indeed rejoice in God our Savior.

Our second reading, taken from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, urges us, “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. It is really our vocation to “rejoice always.” There is a story told about a man from Louisville, Kentucky, who had to travel to St. Louis on business.  This was years ago when Christians kept Sunday as a very special day.  After he finished up his business late Saturday night, he had to stay over in St. Louis until the following Monday morning.  On Sunday morning, he left the hotel looking for a place to worship.  The streets were quite deserted, but finally he saw a policeman and asked him for directions to the nearest church. The stranger thanked the policeman for the information and was about to walk off when he turned and asked the policeman: “Why have you recommended that particular church? It looks like a Catholic church.  There must be several churches nearby that you could have recommended.”

The policeman smiled and replied: “I’m not a church man myself, but the people who come out of that church are the happiest looking church-people in St. Louis and they claim that they have received Jesus and they are happily taking him to their homes.  I thought that would be the kind of church you would like to attend.” Can you and I go home happily after our Mass whenever we come for Mass here?

In the Gospel John the Baptist was asked, “Who are you?” and he declared, “I am not the Messiah” In John the Baptist we see a model for our own spirituality, knowing our smallness and nothingness, that we are not worthy to untie even the sandal strap of the Lord. John pointed away from himself to Jesus. Humility, like that of John the Baptist in the Gospel today, brings happiness.

These beautiful texts we heard proclaimed from the Word of God today remind us that true joy and happiness is to be found only in God. God is the answer. Those who abandon God are on the road to sorrow and pain. Any unhappiness we experience is really an experience of the lack of God. God is the fulfillment of our anxieties and worries, of our needs, of our greed. It’s not enough to have in our wallets “In God we Trust” currencies but those words must be written deep down in our hearts to experience the true Joy.