The third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday. As we are halfway through Advent, this is a good time to reflect on our progress in preparing to receive the Lord.
Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. (Jas 5:7)
Am I patient with myself and with others?
Do my actions bring joy to the world?
How can I emulate Christ and provide physical and
Although it is the second reading at Mass, the Letter of James is worth considering first, as it adds a different perspective to the Advent season. On the second Sunday of Advent, Matthew depicted Jesus urging the disciples to stay awake, be vigilant and prepare for the parousia at the end of days. James offers a different reflection on this event; he calls for patience. Some four times James implores his audience to be patient. As a model of patient waiting for the Lord, he points to the prophets, whose example the Gospel also invokes today.
The Gospel reading from Matthew can help us recognize how joy and rejoicing follow the fulfillment of the promise for which we are waiting. As on the second Sunday of Advent, Matthew situates Jesus in relation to John the Baptist, portraying John as Elijah, the herald for the Messiah whose return would signal a new age. Elijah was a prophet of the Old Testament who lived over 800 years before Jesus. Elijah’s prophetic career was filled with healings, wondrous deeds and confrontations with powerful figures. Notably, Elijah did not die; rather, he ascended into heaven in a whirlwind with chariots and horses of fire (2 Kgs 2:11). Because of Elijah’s ascension, a tradition developed that his return to earth would signal the coming of the Messiah (Mal 3:1, 4:5-6). In the verses immediately following today’s Gospel, Jesus makes this claim explicit, identifying John, “if you are willing to accept it, …[as] Elijah, the one who is to come” (Mt 11:14).
Another signal that Jesus is the Messiah is that he performs miraculous works. Importantly, these works not only show Jesus’ significance but also provide physical and spiritual healing to the world. Jesus gives sight to people who are blind. He empowers lame people to walk, heals lepers, gives hearing to the deaf and restores life to the dead. Likewise, Jesus provides spiritual healing to people who are poor: Jesus proclaims the Gospel directly to them. At this point in Matthew, Jesus has performed many healings (see Mt 8:1-4; 9:2-8, 18-26). When John’s disciples ask if he is the Messiah, Jesus answers them by referring to his healings, which have echoes in today’s Old Testament reading from Isaiah.
Isaiah’s oracle describes a period that is exceedingly joyful. People and animals on the earth, even the earth itself, sing joyfully because of the salvation the Lord provides. Isaiah connects physical and spiritual healings with divine salvation. Bodies are strengthened. Physical ailments are healed. People with emotional impairments are given divine reassurance. The earth is healthy and lush, and all dangers are abated. Isaiah describes a joyful moment of redemption in Israel’s history. Like Isaiah’s community, we too can find joy in salvation from the Lord.
On Gaudete Sunday and always, let us patiently prepare for the Lord and find joy in salvation in Christ. Let us provide healing that is needed in the world and model our lives after Christ.