3rd Advent / Gaudete Sunday 2017
Cycle B | 12/17/17
Is. 61: 1-11
I Thes. 5: 11-24
Jn. 1: 6-28
INTRODUCTION: Our 2nd reading today from Paul’s I Thes. 5 gives these three recommendations: “Rejoice ALWAYS. Pray WITHOUT CEASING. IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES, give thanks.” Remember that I Thes, written around 50 AD, is the earliest Christian text we have. St. Paul is not exactly known for moderate statements but even for Paul these statements are extraordinary: always? Without ceasing? In all circumstances?
For Paul, the coming of Christ changed everything! If one does not get this, he does not understand Christ/inanity! His dying and rising turned everything upside down so that the usual ways of thinking and acting are no longer valid. Grace has transfigured nature — and these three recommendations are signs of this transfiguration.
(1) Rejoice always: What does “rejoice” here mean? Not the emotional high feeling but that the Resurrection of Jesus signals that a victory of universal significance has been won, a victory so powerful and so complete that no negativity that the world could ever throw at us can undo it. At that level, the feeling is always Joy. Neither death nor life, neither good nor evil can overcome what Jesus did in his dying and rising. Therefore, there is always hope and joy! “Neither life or Death; neither height or depth; nothing can separate us from the love of God.” (Rom) “Peace” may describe better what “Rejoice” wants to convey.
(2) Pray without ceasing: How could one ever do that? Even a full time Carthusian monk does not even do that! Think again of the difference Jesus made. By his Incarnation, he has made it possible for all people to participate in the relationship he has with his Father. From all eternity the Son lives in communion with the Father and that union is called the Holy Spirit. The union with the Father and the Son gives rise to the Holy Spirit. By becoming human, the Son takes to himself our fallen humanity and gives us access to that same relationship he has with his Father from all eternity. Anybody therefore grafted in Christ through baptism is a sharer of that Divine Life. Prayer is our becoming conscious explicitly of that relationship what is in fact taking place every time much like the breathing that happens in all of us.
(3) In all circumstances, give thanks: When things happen well with us. . . But even when failures and mishaps befall us? Again remember what changed with the coming of Christ! Jesus entered into our human history, experiencing every aspect of our humanity except sin. Therefore, by going through all these even his Cross, he transformed those experiences into means of sanctification. We Christians look at the world not just a place where good and evil takes place but where even for the worst we give thanks because they have been transformed into a means of sanctification.
CONCLUSION: So rejoice always! Pray without ceasing! In all circumstances, give thanks!
Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches