This is the Third Sunday in Advent which is sometimes called Gaudete Sunday. The name means Rejoice, and it comes from the words of Philippians 4 that says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.”
The lesson from Isaiah carries the theme as well:
- I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people;
Advent is traditionally a period of fasting for the preparation of the coming of Jesus into the world. If in fact we were fasting, today would be the day to lighten the rule of fasting, to let the joy of the Lord enter our lives.
We heard about John the Baptizer in the Gospel again today, this time from the Gospel according to St. John. He came as a witness to the Light.
Later on St. John will quote Jesus telling his disciples, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
And we need the Light of Life, because without it there is only darkness, but sometimes it hard to recognize darkness, that is, the darkness of the heart.
Many people today are walking in darkness and they don’t even know it. I think that very many would say that they don’t really need Christ in their daily lives.
You might hear people putting down the church as old fashioned, behind the times, no longer relevant.
You might hear them say, “I don’t need to go to church.” Or maybe, “I don’t need any religion. I’m just fine by myself.”
But are they really just fine by themselves? When you hear people saying, “I need this, or I want that or I don’t want to do that,” what does it mean?
It usually means that they have become the center of their own little universe, and no one else really matters. The problem with doing that is that you will be more and more alone, until no one cares about you. You may eventually fall into a very dark place.
And people who have fallen into dark places are in grave danger. Sometimes they harm themselves, and sometimes they harm others. We have seen way too much evidence of this darkness.
The Light of Christ wants to shine into your darkness. Jesus wants to be a particular part of your life, and you are a particular part of his body.
The Spirit of Christ dwells within you now, and you are being formed into his likeness little by little.
As your pastor, this formation is my concern.
We heard from St. Paul today these words;
“We beseech you, brethren, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.”
I am the one laboring among you, and are over you in the Lord. That does not mean I’m greater than you, or that I am your boss. It means that your formation into the likeness of Christ is my responsibility.
And so I preach to you, and I read the Holy Scriptures with you, and I feed you with the Body and Blood of Christ. I pray for you and I asked the Father to heal you in the Name of Jesus Christ. I try to show you the Light of Christ, and he wants to dwell within you every day.
When you call me ‘father’ you are giving me the respect that St. Paul wrote about, to esteem me highly in love. It also reminds me of our relationship.
St. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians, 4:15, “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
And as your father in Christ Jesus, I pass on these great words from St. Paul.
“Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.”
And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. In other words, build each other up, don’t tear each other down. Give encouragement to those who are having difficulty. Help those who need it, don’t ignore it.
“See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. This is a major point for this reading. Do not take revenge for something that has been done to you. It’s ok to tell someone, like your parents, if you have been hurt by someone. That needs to stop, and the person who does harm must be made accountable. But do not repay evil for evil. If evil is done to you, don’t do it to them or someone else.
The rest of this reading from St. Paul is a summary of his great teaching, and as a father, I commend you for you daily living:
“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil.
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. Brothers, pray for us.”
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.