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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Homily for the Third Sunday in Advent

We've hit the midpoint in Advent. Only two more weeks until Christmas, and it seems like the whole country is focused solely on preparing for Christmas parties, gift-giving, and merriment. Every other show on TV seems to be a Christmas special, and all the old favorite Christmas songs are being played on the radio over and over again. It's almost enough to make us look forward to Christmas Day so that it'll be over.

While it's easy to get overwhelmed by the constant barrage of Christmas cheer in the media and around town, we should be having a different reaction, one of rejoicing and anticipation. During this season of Advent, we've been preparing for the celebration of Our Lord's birth, but we're also preparing ourselves to welcome Jesus when he returns again. God wants us to approach this season with great rejoicing, as we are encouraged in today's Entrance Antiphon, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.” Now, we don't frequently hear the Entrance Antiphon, since we often choose to use a hymn instead for the opening procession, but it is a part of the prayers of the Mass, often chanted with a Psalm or other Scripture verses.

Today's Entrance Antiphon brings us the popular title for this Sunday in Advent, Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is Latin for rejoice, the first word in the antiphon, and is an encouragement for all of us to rejoice in the Lord, because He is coming. We usually wear bright colors when celebrating special events, thus the rose colored vestments in exchange for the ordinary purple of Advent, as today is a day of rejoicing along with our preparation for Christmas.

The reading this morning from the prophet Isaiah shows us why we should approach this season with rejoicing. He says that he “rejoice[s] 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.” Isaiah was proclaiming the return of the people of Israel to the Promised Land after being removed by conquering armies, and like Isaiah, we have been wrapped in a robe of salvation. At our baptism, we were wrapped with that robe, symbolized by with white clothes of purity, and we entered into the Body of Christ and were given the promise that if we remain faithful to God, we would receive the gift of salvation.

Much as the people of Israel may have succumbed to despair during their long period of captivity, it's easy for us to despair when wrapped in the anguish, sorrow, and struggles that frequently come with life on Earth. To us, Isaiah says that God will “make justice and peace spring up before the nations.” Ironically, as we're experiencing bitter cold weather with lots of wind and blowing snow, Isaiah presents to us the image of the new Spring growth. Just as it seems impossible to imagine the first warm days of Spring during these cold days, it also seems impossible to imagine what life will be like when God reigns over the whole world as king. We know, however, just as the warm Spring will come and melt away the cold and snow, God's reign will come, enveloping us with his love and mercy.

Today, let us join the Blessed Mother Mary in her song of praise which we sung in the Responsorial Psalm. Let us “proclaim the greatness of the Lord” and “[rejoice] in God [our] savior.”

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