This Sunday, 17th December, is the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete or ‘rejoice’ Sunday. You can find the readings for Sunday’s Mass here. This week, we feature Fr Jeremy Corley’s Commentary from our diocesan Liturgy Project website…
At a time when most people are focusing on preparing Christmas celebrations, the Advent liturgy invites us into the wilderness with John the Baptist. He is the voice that cries in the wilderness: “Make a straight way for the Lord.”
Our celebration of Christmas misses the point if we fail to welcome Christ into our midst. In the December wilderness of shopping centres and town streets, we are called to prepare the way for our Saviour.
John the Baptist gave his whole life to preparing for Christ’s arrival. He himself was not the Messiah. He himself was not Elijah, despite being a similar kind of prophet. He himself was not the expected prophet like Moses (Deut 18:18). Instead, he saw himself as a voice pointing to Christ.
To prepare the people, he offered baptism at Bethany on the east side of the Jordan. Pope St John Paul visited this baptism site in the year 2000. (This is different from Bethany on the Mount of Olives, the home of Martha and Mary and Lazarus.)
John the Baptist told the people: “There stands among you—unknown to you—the Saviour who is coming after me.” Sadly, this Saviour is still unknown to so many people in our society.
When he came, Jesus fulfilled the promise of Third-Isaiah, expressed in the first reading: “God has sent me to bring freedom to those in prison, and to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.”
No wonder the prophet sings: “I exult for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God.” Our Lady sings a similar song of joy in her Magnificat.
St Paul in the second reading speaks of our response to Christ’s coming: “Be happy at all times, and pray constantly.” We rejoice that Christ has come among us to save us, born in the stable in Bethlehem. And our hearts are full of prayer, thanking the Lord for coming to us and asking his help for ourselves and our world.