The third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday, which means rejoice Sunday. Why is the Church inviting all believers to rejoice at the midpoint of Advent? Christ's coming to earth, which Advent looks forward to, is the only source of true, lasting joy. Entrance Antiphon for this weekend Mass, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.” We light the Rose Candle, a sign of joy.
In the first reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah tells the Israelites rejoice because the prophet has been anointed by the Lord to bring the good news to the afflicted. This part of Isaiah is written while Israelites were trying to re-establish their lives in the Promised Land after the Babylonian exile. The prophet gave them comfort and promised the healing of broken hearts. He told them he is anointed to announce a year of favor. The year of favor is a jubilee year. We read in the book of Leviticus 25:10, “You shall treat this fiftieth year as sacred. You shall proclaim liberty in the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you when each of you shall return to your own property, each of you to your own family.”
The prophet’s promise came to fulfillment in Jesus Christ. We see Jesus’ inaugural address of his public ministry in the Gospel of Luke 4:16-21. After reading from the prophet Isaiah, Jesus said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
In the responsorial psalm, Mary says, Almighty has done great things for me, so her soul rejoices in God. In the second reading, Paul says to Thessalonians, “Rejoice always.” He reminds them to give thanks to God ,to do good things always, and to avoid evil.
This year we are reading from the Gospel of Mark, but we have a guest today, John. We read from the Gospel of John about specific identification of John the Baptist. John testified to the light, but he was not the light. Then Gospel says John was the voice in the desert. We see in the Gospel reading, people seeking the identity of John the Baptist. Why do they want to know about him? People had great respect for him, at the same time priest and Levites had questions about him. Priest and Levites, their interest was normal, John is the son of Zacharias who was a priest. In Judaism the only qualification for the priesthood was descendent. So the priest and Levites came to find out why John is behaving in a strange way.
The people of Israel listen to John because they didn’t hear the voice of a prophet for four hundred years. So they were eager to hear him. John told them “I am not the Christ.” Then they asked him, “Are you, Elijah? In the last weekend we reading we heard about John the Baptist’s dress. “John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist” Mark 1:6. Also, they believed that Elijah will come before Christ. So they assumed this could be Elijah. John tells them, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord’”
People started following John, so the Pharisees were interested to find out his authenticity. So they question why are you baptizing? John was saying to them, the Messiah is coming, you need to cleanse as much as any Gentiles do. Normally baptism was for the Gentiles who want to convert to Judaism or those who went out of Judaism and if they want to come back to Judaism. But John was giving them the baptism of repentance to prepare the way for the Lord.
This Gaudete Sunday invites us to rejoice at the same time repent and continue to prepare our heart for Christmas and for the coming of Christ in glory.