This Advent, we’re excited to share excerpts from the new book The Light of the World: Daily Meditations for Advent and Christmas, by Phyllis Zagano. This week, we have the reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent.
Third Sunday of Advent
Year A: Isaiah 35:1–6a, 10; James 5:7–10; Matthew 11:2–11
Year B: Isaiah 61:1–2a, 10–11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16–24; John 1:6–8, 19–28
Year C: Zephaniah 3:14–18a; Philippians 4:4–7; Luke 3:10–18
When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works
of the Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” Matthew 11:2–6
John gets a very hopeful message here from his own disciples, again probably part of what we now call the Qumran community, known for the Dead Sea Scrolls. These bits and pieces of Scripture connect us to the people who were waiting for the Lord in an ancient past.
Today in the gospel, John receives some very exciting news—a message from Jesus—in response to his searching question: “Are you the one who is to come?”
The answer, quite simply, is yes.
So the church calls this Third Sunday of Advent Gaudete Sunday. The first word of this Sunday’s liturgy is gaudete—rejoice! We may hear the Latin echo in the gauzy memory of years past: “Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, Gaudete.” Rejoice in the Lord always: again, I say rejoice.
It is a day of rejoicing. Some churches still have rose-colored vestments. They are used but twice a year: today and on Laetare Sunday in Lent. The color itself lends joy to the season, a bit of a break in the hopeful uphill hike toward Christmas.
I recall being at a Gaudete Sunday Mass in New York City celebrated by the future Cardinal Archbishop of New York, John J. O’Connor, then an auxiliary bishop in the Military Ordinariate. As he began his homily, he looked down at his vestments and said: “I feel like a dining room table.” You couldn’t help but laugh. There he was, a newly retired Navy chaplain, dressed in pink brocade. It did seem a little incongruous.
But then again, why not pink—or rose—vestments? Too feminine? Today the church rejoices in the fact that the Savior who will come is really coming, and he is coming for us all, male and female. In each cycle of readings—A, B, and C—today’s gospel passage has a note of hope, a bit of light. Yes, this really will happen. Yes, Christ will be born in Bethlehem. And, yes, this really is the Christ promised in Scripture.
I think this is where we get lost, in or out of Advent. We hope for the Christ, but we cannot really believe he will come. So the doubts pile on. What is this foolishness? A Savior? A Savior of the world? Give me a break. No one can straighten out what is going on in the Middle East, or anywhere else—in Africa, in Asia, in South America. Even in North America there are fewer and fewer people looking for the peace of Christ and more and more people looking for guns.
That is the scary part. We say we await the Christ. We say we know he will come. We say we believe in the promise of peace. But, at the bottom, we are caught up in the fear that it is all fake, it is all a fraud.
A Grace for Today
Lord, grant me the grace to believe you will come.
Journey through Advent with internationally acclaimed author Phyllis Zagano as she explores the rich themes of this holy season. As explored by Zagano, Advent is a time of darkness and light, increase and decrease. The Light of the World gently unfolds the rhythms of these sacred weeks, inviting readers into a deep and prayerful journey to Christmas.