This Sunday is called Gaudete Sunday or Rejoice Sunday. All Christians should be rejoicing in the Lord. In the first reading, the book of the prophet Zephaniah, we read, “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!” In the second reading St. Paul says “Rejoice in the Lord always.” In the Gospel, people asked John the Baptist, what should we do to embrace the Lord?
On the third Sunday of Advent, the theme is joy and encouragement. In the middle of advent preparation, on the third Sunday, the Church invites us to rejoice because we are close to the Christmas celebration. We lit the Rose Candle, a sign of joy.
The prophet Zephaniah prophesied six hundred years before the birth of Jesus. The third Sunday of Advent, we read from the last part of his Book where he ends with a note of hope by addressing the “daughter Zion” which is Jerusalem - the Lord renews his love for Jerusalem. When the Prophet said this, Israelites were living in fear of war and other destruction. The Lord will gather his humble ones into the holy city and restore its fortunes. We can see similar passages throughout the Bible. For example, we read in the book of Joel 2:27, “You know that you are in the midst of Israel, and that I the Lord, am your God and there is no one else. And my people will never again be put to shame.” We read in the Gospel of Luke 1:28, an Annunciation Angel told Mary, “The Lord is with you.”
The Gospel talks about how to prepare the next 12 days for Christmas. In the Gospel, John the Baptist called people to baptism of repentance, so they will be prepared to receive Jesus and see salvation. All sorts of people came to John and inquired what we should do? John prescribed penance to improve their life situation. He told them to share what they have, or don’t steal what belongs to others, and treat others with dignity. Those who gathered wondered if John is the Messiah. John clarified that he was not the Messiah. When the Messiah comes he will baptize with the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit (CCC 696).
The second reading emphasizes the relationship which the followers of Jesus expected. Paul was very proud of, and confident in the people of Philippian Christians. Paul wrote to them and commanded them to rejoice beyond their difficulties. The reading says to rejoice while we are preparing for Christmas. He says show everyone how unselfish you are. St. Paul says, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” Paul gave his audience great hope, especially talking about parousia, the Lord’s return. In the middle of Advent preparation, waiting for the celebration of Christmas, the reading tells us to live in the presence of the Lord by giving thanks and praise. The Mass is the greatest thanksgiving, especially the Eucharistic prayer. The Word “Eucharist” means “thanksgiving.” St. Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!”