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THOUGHTS TO LIVE BY: Third Sunday of Advent

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Dec. 11, 3rd Sunday of Advent:
Liturgy of the Word —

Is. 35:1-6, 10;
Ps. 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10;
Jas. 5:7-10;
Mt. 11:2-11.

1. Today is “Gaudete Sunday,” so called because the first word of the Entrance antiphon (Introit) is “Gaudete” – “Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete.” “Rejoice in the Lord always: again, I say, rejoice” (Phil. 4:4-6; Ps 85:1). Gaudete Sunday is a counterpart of  Lent’s Laetare Sunday. It provides a break from the  penitential character of Advent. It is a “Sunday of joy,” said Pope Francis, when we remember the joyful blessings of our lives. 

2. The Readings today  emphasize the joyous anticipation of the Lord’s coming. Rose-colored vestments may be worn. The rose-colored candle in the Advent Wreath is lit.

3. 1st Reading, Is. 35:1-6, 10 —  After announcing the destruction of wicked Edom, Isaiah now speaks of Israel’s deliverance. The beautiful imagery is of a desert in bloom. “The wilderness and the parched land will exult; the Arabah will rejoice and bloom.” The glory of Lebanon, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon will be given to it. “They will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God” (vv. 1-2 see similar image in Dt. 41:18-19). 

4. Now comes a Messianic oracle. Say to the fearful of heart, “Do not fear. Here is your God,… he comes to save you” (vv. 3-4). “Then the eyes of the blind will see, and the ears of the deaf be opened. Then the lame shall leap like a stag, and the mute tongue shall sing for joy” (vv. 5-6). The imagery of a blooming desert returns “For waters will burst forth in the wilderness and streams in Arabah (v. 6). Then a vision of Israel’s restoration: “And the ransomed of the Lord shall  return, and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy … sorrow and mourning flee away” (v.10; see Dt. 51:11). 

5. Resp. Ps. 146:6-7, 8-9, 8-10 — Our responsorial verses speak of God’s predilection for the poor and downtrodden. The Creator of all things is faithful. He “secures justice for the oppressed,… gives bread to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, gives sight to the blind, raises up those who are bowed down. The Lord loves the righteous, protects strangers, aids the orphan and widow, but thwarts away the wicked” (vv. 6-9). “The Lord shall reign forever, your God  Zion, through all generations! Hallelujah! (v. 10).

6. 2nd Reading, Jas. 5:7-10 — The authorship of the Letter of  James is disputed. Tradition attributes the letter to James, the Lord’s “brother,” Bishop of Jerusalem. But many scholars believe that the Letter was written after the time of the Apostles.

7. James first denounces the rich who oppress the poor. Then, he exhorts the oppressed. “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord” (v. 7). “Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand” (v. ????. Do not be judgmental. “Behold the Judge is standing before the gates” (v. 9). 

8. Gospel, Mt. 11:2-11 — From prison (see Mt. 4:12; 14:1-12), John the Baptist hears about the works of the Messiah (see Mt. 8-9). He sends his disciples to Jesus to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” (vv. 2-3). Jesus tells them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me” (vv. 4-6). 

9. The answer of Jesus is from Is. 26:19; 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 61:1. The phenomena of healing are the signs of the Messiah’s coming and the time of salvation. 

10. Jesus then tells the crowd the significant role of John in the history of salvation. John is “more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you’ (v. 10). “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (v. 11). In the wilderness, announced the coming of the kingdom, but the one who actually accepts and enters the kingdom is greater than John. The words of Jesus do not, of course, exclude the entry of John into the kingdom. But there are those who do violence to prevent anyone from accepting the Kingdom (v. 12).

11. As is expected for Gaudete Sunday, the Liturgy of the Word  is filled with joyful descriptions of Messianic times and of the coming Messiah, who is now at the gates. The Responsorial refrain expresses our joyful  expectation: “Lord, come and save us!”

12. Prayer — O God, you see how your people faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity. Enable us, we pray, to attain the joys of so great a salvation and to celebrate them always with solemn worship and glad rejoicing, through Christ our Lord. Amen. (Collect of today’s Holy Mass).

Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Prayers, stay safe, God bless!

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