Sunday 13th December 2020
Year B Third Sunday of Advent
By Father George Roth of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (FI):
“Rejoice Always , Pray Constantly…”
Today, as we are getting closer and closer to Christmas, the Church give us special scriptures to prepare us for the coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God and the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary and true God and true Man. It is the greatest event in the history of the world. It had been foretold throughout the scriptures, and now its fulfilment is upon us. No wonder St. Paul wants us to “Rejoice always.” In the same breath, he wants us also to prepare for Christ’s coming by praying constantly, “…Pray without ceasing” I Thess. 5:16. This is also the message of the Gospel (Jn. 1:6-8; 19-28) where we are given the great prophet St. John the Baptist who was sent by God to prepare the way of the Lord: “The voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God.” Is. 40:3 This is the lesson which we should learn today; we should be preparing for the Lord by living good lives and by repenting of any sins. Then, we will recognize Jesus Christ, our Saviour, when He comes on Christmas Day.
The Messiah, the Holy One of God
In the First Reading from Isaiah (61:1-2; 10-11), which was written seven hundred years before Christ, we see the blessings of the future Messiah. He is the anointed of the Lord: “Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For behold darkness shall cover the earth, and a mist the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.” Is. 61:1-2 Later, when Jesus returns to Nazareth, He will apply these words of Isaiah to Himself. He is the Messiah, the holy one of God, and as Isaiah foretold, He will bring great blessings to the people: He will heal souls, bring release to captives and proclaim a time of Jubilation for all. This is why the prophet Isaiah cries out: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, and my soul shall be joyful in my God: for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation: and with the robe of justice he hath covered me, as a bridegroom decked with a crown, and as a bride adorned with her jewels.” Is 61:10
“Rejoice Always (in the Lord)”
In the Second Reading (I Thess. 5:16-24) St. Paul echoes Isaiah to “Rejoice Always…” (I Thess. 5:16) because, he, especially, knew the darkness without Jesus Christ when he persecuted the Christians. St. Paul was literally knocked off his horse and blinded. Thereafter, St. Paul could not contain himself with the great truth of whom Jesus Christ was. This is why he wants his followers to “Rejoice Always.” God, Emmanuel, is with us! This why he wants his followers to pray and sanctify themselves to prepare for Christ: “Pray without ceasing…. From all appearance of evil refrain yourselves. And may the God of peace himself sanctify you in all things; that your whole spirit, and soul, and body, may be preserved blameless in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Thess. 5:19 & 22-23 This is what we must do for Christmas; we must give up any sinful practice and make ourselves holy before the Lord.
“…make straight the way of the Lord…”
In today’s Gospel, we see St. John the Baptist, the precursor of the Lord, and “the voice of crying in the wilderness.”He, also, tells us to prepare for the Lord by repentance: “make straight the way of the Lord,” Jn. 1:23B His whole life tells us how best to dispose ourselves for Jesus’ coming. His answer to the Scribes and Pharisees on his identity shows us that, if we are going to recognize Christ in our life, we must be humble like St. John the Baptist. When asked if he is the Messiah, he does not pretend to be something that he isn’t, and he answers humbly and truthfully: “I am not the Christ.” Jn. 1:20 He is simply, “A voice crying in the wilderness.” Jn. 1:23 When questioned on why then he baptizes, he says: “I baptize with water; but there hath stood one in the midst of you, whom you know not. The same is he that shall come after me, who is preferred before me: the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to loose.” Jn. 1:26-7 Even with this lowly act of a servant, he is not worthy to do for the Holy one who is to come.
Be Clean Heart and Men of Good Will
When St. John the Baptist tells them that the Messiah is in the midst of them, although they do not know him, he is reminding them that if they want to recognize the Messiah when He comes that they must live good lives. They must repent of evil deeds. So, too, we in the 21st Century need to repent for the world is filled with darkness. Only those whose hearts are pure will recognize Jesus’ coming into our midst: “Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.” Mt. 5:8 This is also the message of the angels who sang in the heavens for the simple shepherds: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.’” Lk. 2:13-4 This Christmas let us make sure that we are “clean of heart” and “men of good will,” then we can truly “Rejoice Always” as the Lord has come to save us.