3rd Sunday in Advent Year B

Is 61: 1-2A, 10-11 / Lk 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54 / 1 Thes 5: 16-24 / Jn 1:6-8, 19-28

     I can’t believe how quickly time is flying. It seems like just yesterday we were beginning this season of Advent and now Christmas is less than 2 weeks away. I don’t know about you, but as Christmas draws nearer I find myself rushing to be ready. Today, amidst the hustle and bustle, the Church calls us to set aside time to rejoice.

     Today’s first reading and Gospel both proclaim the coming of the long promised Messiah, the coming which, during this Advent, we have been preparing our hearts to receive, the coming which today’s second reading instructs us requires the response of rejoicing always. Is it even possible? Can we truly rejoice always? St. Paul does not instruct us to do the impossible, we can truly rejoice always, but perhaps not in the way we think of rejoicing. Certainly every life contains sadness but regardless of what is going on in our lives we have a reason for joy. Today we are challenged to a radically new way of seeing life, we are challenged to see life through the lens of the Christmas story. It is precisely because our joy is rooted in the truth that God became man that we are able to rejoice always. This Advent we have reason to rejoice because as the famous poem attributed to St. Patrick says “Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ besides me.” We have a reason to rejoice because Christ is behind us, He is with us and He is ahead of us.

     At the 1st Christmas God entered into human life, He experienced the joys and sufferings of life. God left the comfort of heaven and vulnerably entered into the trials of life to bring joy to this world, the joy of eternal life. That child laying in a manger, which we will see in our nativity set, on Christmas and the man hanging on the cross over the altar both boldly proclaim that God cares. He came into this world in less than ideal circumstances out of love, to live for us, now we must live for Him. The Blessed Mother faced with the news that she would become the mother of God did not respond with fear, anxiousness or concern, but rather, in complete trust exclaimed, as we did in today’s responsorial psalm, “My soul rejoices in my God.” Regardless of the situations we find ourselves in we can rejoice because God shared it all, even His own son. Simply said “With Him everything. Without Him nothing. He is the Lord.”[1]

     Jesus did not come into history at one moment only to depart and leave us orphans. No matter how far we stray from God, He is never distant; His Spirit is poured into us and the only response is to come rejoicing with unceasing prayer as today’s second reading commands us to. Is that even possible? Can we truly pray without ceasing? To pray always as St. Paul instructs us to, we must keep Christ at the center of our lives. How often in the midst of trials do we turn in on ourselves and shut Jesus out because we fail to recognize His presence in the midst of the trials? Praying always can be as simple as the frequent cries of simple short prayers like “Jesus help me,” or “My Lord and my God,” or even the words of Christ on the cross “My God, my God why have your forsaken me.”

     Regardless of how far away Jesus seems He is always near to us. He is here in the sacraments, especially Holy Eucharist and Confession; He is here in His Word contained in Sacred Scripture and in the encounter of someone in need. If God feels far away perhaps we need to make a radical shift in how we view the world, we must view the world through the lens of the Christmas story and rejoice because Christ has entered into humanity and experienced the same joys and hardships we endure. He is always present waiting for us to encounter Him, if only we are willing to risk running to Him. “The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step toward Jesus, we come to realize that He is already there waiting for us with open arms.”[2]

     Jesus came to save us, He remains with us as we journey the pilgrimage of life and He will come again to lead us to eternal life. My brothers and sisters we have every reason to be joyful. We rejoice because we know that Jesus is behind us, he has entered into human life and shared it to the fullest. We rejoice because Jesus is always with us: never distant, even when we stray from Him and we rejoice because Jesus is ahead of us, for every tick of the clock brings us closer to the greater eternal encounter with Him who is the fulfillment of all our desires.

[1] Kowalska, St. Faustina. Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. Stockbridge: Marian Press. (2011). pg. 161.

[2] Pope Francis. Evangelii Gaudium. Washington DC: USCCB. (2014). pg. 1.

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