Be Good News People……
One of the most joyful traditions of all Christian communities has been celebrating the season of Advent every year. Advent is a time of watching and waiting, of eager longing for the Messiah, for the one who can heal us, save us, make us whole. In waiting , we must await God coming at His time, in His season, in His way. In waiting, we may often wait alone. Others may leave, may give up, may not care, may be busy about many things. But we must wait in silence, in solitude, in prayer. We must wait empty, open, poor, hungry, thirsty, longing……We must make space for the Messiah, for He comes in His time.
We have been watching and waiting and praying and preparing. Now it is time to listen to the Gospel, the Good News – the Good news of liberation, of freedom, of redemption and salvation. The prophets proclaimed a “year of favor”, John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of the Messiah, Mary sang a song of Joy, Paul called his converts to rejoice. We hear the call to rejoice and bring that joy to all we meet on our journey.
Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11 is one of the most frequently quoted texts from the post-exilic prophet whom we know now as Trito-Isaiah or third Isaiah. The prophet saw his vocation as inspired, moved and driven by the spirit of God to bring the good news of liberation to the brokenhearted and the lowly people who had just returned from exile in Babylon. Our prophet proclaimed “a year of favor”, a Jubilee year for a people who had lived in shame and oppression and had not yet been healed from their brokenness after their return home. God had forgiven them and liberated them from captivity. Now they are to offer one another the favor that God had offered them.
Reflect on your own call to proclaim the good news of forgiveness, healing and grace to all people today.
The Jewish authorities questioned John the Baptist about his identity. John made it very clear to them that he was not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor a prophet (John 1:6-8, 19-28). He was just “a voice in the wilderness crying out: make straight the way of the Lord”
Listen to the voice calling you, “make straight what is crooked in your lives. Today, the voice of John challenges us to change what need to be changed and bring about a transformation of our life in Christ.
John was questioned again about the validity of his Baptism if he was not the Messiah or Elijah or a prophet. John affirmed again that his was a baptism of water……but someone was coming after him “the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to unfasten” and this someone was already among them and that they did not recognize him.
John was a humble man. He had the wisdom and the courage to accept and acknowledge the truth about himself. And that is what humility means: acceptance and affirmation of the truth about self. Be humble! Be honest with yourself and about yourself!
John’s message was not about himself or his knowledge or wisdom. He saw himself as a “voice crying out in the wilderness” calling people to conversion, to a change of heart, to “make straight the way of the Lord”. The reason for all this change, he said, was that someone was coming and that someone was the Light whom his listeners did not recognize. They had to repent, turn around, change their ways and look more deeply among them and within them to find the Light that was already there. John made it very clear to them that he was not the light, but he was testifying to the Light.
Look beyond what you see. Look deep within you. Find the Light within. Find the spark within and fan it into flame.
Paul called his Thessalonian converts to be joyful in bearing witness to their knowledge and experience of Christ (I Thessalonians 5:16-24). This joy in Christ must inspire and move them to live lives of prayer, discernment and holiness. Paul taught them to pray constantly and to live a God-oriented life; to be listening and attentive to the movement and promptings of the Spirit and discern what the Spirit is saying; and to live a life of holiness, which is a life-long process of conversion and growth in Christ. Paul invites his converts to find joy in Christ. This joy must be the moving force in the hearts of all believers in Jesus.
Rediscover and give witness to your joy in Christ. Let your joy in Christ inspire you to live lives of prayer, discernment and holiness. Let it move you be good news people, bringing good news to all you meet on your journey.
We now begin the third week of Advent. The third Sunday of advent is known as “Gaudete Sunday” – Gaudete means “Rejoice”. The liturgical color of Advent and Lent is Violet. Yet, half way through the both holy seasons, we discover the bright color of rose in the liturgy… but only for one Sunday. The Sunday in Advent is called “Gaudete” Sunday and in Lent “Laetare” Sunday. Both these Latin words (Gaudete and Laetare, from the Entrance Antiphons at Mass) are translated, “Rejoice!”
Nature’s annual cycle is characterized by “light and life”. Out of the darkness of night comes light; out of death comes life. The transition from night to light characterizes the winter season; the transition from death to life is proper to summertime. The dark color of violet in Advent harmonizes well with the diminishing sunlight late in the year, and in Lent with the silence of life through Winter leading up to Spring. Just as darkness gives place to light at the turn of the Winter Solstice and death to life at the beginning of Spring, so the violet of Advent gives place to the bright white of Christmas joy, and of Lent to the brightness of Easter life.
Violet is a dark and penitential color, but it is also the ancient color for royalty and wealth. Through baptism, we have been immersed in Light and Life, and we have been given the royalty of being children of the King of Heaven! So, violet expresses well both these aspects: darkness and royalty.
Rose is a softening of violet. It is violet approaching white. In this sense, it anticipates the pure white of the Birth and Resurrection of Christ. It intimates the mystery of the “already, and not yet” of Christian life. The Messiah has come. The Light has come to dwell in our hearts. And yet, we wait for Christ to come, with great expectation. This expectancy fills us with joy.
The Church summons us to “look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” In this sense, Laetare Sunday is like an oasis in the desert of Lent, and Gaudete Sunday like the appearance of the first streaks of dawn in the night of Advent. It is as if we were sentinels keeping watch at night, longing for the sun to appear, being filled with joy at the first streaks of light. “My soul waits for the Lord more than sentinels wait for the dawn. (Psalm 130)”
We are waiting for the One who said, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” St. Bernard of Clairvaux explains, “We know that there are three comings of the Lord. The third lies between the other two. It is invisible, while the other two are visible… In his first coming our Lord came in our flesh and in our weakness; in this middle coming he comes in spirit and in power; in the final coming he will be seen in glory and majesty.” In Advent we, in a sense, wait with expectation and joy for all three. We place ourselves along the prophets of old as they waited for the coming Messiah. We wait for the coming of Christ more deeply into our life now, in preparation for the last coming. St. Bernard explains that this middle coming is the road from the first to the final coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Advent is a time consecrated to this road. The nearness of the Lord’s coming is announced to us at the beginning of Advent in the words, “Our Savior is coming.” It is made even more imminent during Gaudete Sunday when the announcement is changed to, “The Lord is near.” Just as the color rose approaches white, so in the middle of Advent we approach the Lord with joy. We are closer than ever before: “For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” We rejoice not only in the future coming of the Lord; we rejoice now as we have the opportunity to let Christ penetrate more deeply into our hearts.
The Entrance Antiphon of Gaudete Sunday, which comes from Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.” This text in Scripture continues: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7). Jesus revealed the ways of the kingdom to us, “my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). Gaudete Sunday is a good time for us to examine how free we are to embrace the joy of the Lord’s coming into our lives more completely.
But where will we find strength to embrace this joy? Our Sacred Scriptures, proclaimed during the season of Advent, advise us to cultivate virtues of courage, patience and steadfastness to help us rejoice, to enable us to become more joyful.
The Prophet Isaiah urges us on to have courage and offer each other courage and strength: “Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak… Be strong, fear not!” (Isaiah 35:1-10).
St. James advises us as he did the early Christians. “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. … (James 5:7-12)
This waiting involves letting go of trying to control what is beyond our control and joyfully accepting those things that the Lord sends us. Courage, patience and steadfastness enable us to find joy in difficult moments. As the darkness augments at the close of this year, we know the light will prevail. Christ has come. And Christ is coming. With joy, courage, patience and steadfastness, we keep watch for the approaching light. We rejoice and we celebrate the Joy of knowing that the Lord is here with us and share that joy with all we meet on our journey of life.
Fr. Gus Tharappel, msfs