Is 61:1-2a, 10-11, I Thes 5:16-24, Jn 1:6-8, 19-28
Kevin was driving down the street in a sweat because he had an important meeting and could not find a parking place. Looking up to heaven he said, “Lord, take pity on me. If you find me a parking place I will go to Mass every Sunday for the rest of my life and give up my Irish whiskey during Advent and Lent. Miraculously a parking place appeared. Kevin looked up again and said, “Never mind, I found one.”
Dear friends! Today we light the rose candle and the priest wears rose vestments to express our joy in the coming of Jesus, our savior. The common theme running through today’s readings is one of joy, encouragement and the need for preparation required from those of us who are awaiting the rebirth of Jesus in our hearts and lives. There is a second common theme, namely, witness. The prophet Isaiah, Mary and John the Baptist all bear joyful witness to what God has done and will do for his people.
Today’s readings remind us that the past, present and the future coming of Jesus is the reason for our rejoicing. The first reading tells us that we should rejoice because the promised messiah is coming as our savior and liberator, saving us by liberating us from our bondages. The responsorial psalm of the day is taken from Mary’s “Magnificat,” in which she exclaims: “My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit finds joy in God my savior.”
St. Paul in the second reading advises us to “rejoice always” by leading a blameless, holy and thankful life guided by the Holy Spirit because Christ is faithful in his promise that he will come again to reward us. Today’s gospel tells us that John the Baptist came as a witness to testify to the light, i.e., Jesus, and the coming of Jesus the light into the world is cause for rejoicing as he removes darkness from the world.
We should be glad and rejoice also because, like John the Baptist, we too are chosen to bear witness to Christ Jesus, the light of the world. We are to reflect his light in our lives so that we may radiate it and illuminate the dark lives of others around us. The joyful message of today’s liturgy is clear. The salvation we await with rejoicing will liberate both the individual and the community.
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? How can we rejoice always? When we put our trust and hope in God, then even in difficult times when there is a storm at the surface, we can “rejoice always” deep within.
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. If we are not finding our joy and happiness in God, we are under an illusion and sooner or later God will give us the painful grace of allowing that illusion to give way to reality. God is the answer. Only in God can we find true joy and happiness. Those who abandon God are on the road to sorrow and pain. Advent reminds us that the joyful answer to our problems lies in God. 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.