Let us celebrate the arrival of the Kingdom of God! (Mt 11:2-11)
‘Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.’ (Phil 4:4-5) Today’s service begins with what sounds like a command. Rejoice! Indeed, the third Sunday of Advent commands us: ‘Gaudete!’ ‘Rejoice!’. Whatever happens in our life, even if burdens are dominating it, today we are ‘ordered’ to rejoice!
What is this interruption, and what is its significance in our lives? Sometimes, despite one’s best efforts, we experience a stalemate in life. We just cannot make a breakthrough into the desired direction. We can’t change a situation. We can’t get rid of a negative thought. We can’t change a bad habit. It is in these moments, that we have to submit ourselves to divine order of rejoicing.
Gaudete Sunday invites us to this life-changing wisdom. Not only as individuals, but also, as a community are called to be refreshed from this resource. That is why in the Gospel we hear about miracles associated with the Messianic age. Go‘and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor; and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.’’
If we absorb and breath in this joyful presence of God, we will understand the most challenging verse in today’s Gospel. ‘I tell you solemnly, of all the children born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen; //:yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is://.’ Of all who had heralded the coming Messiah John the Baptist ‘was the greatest, for he was nearest to Him. But the least who would experience the full power of the king would be greater than he’ in closeness to Jesus. (The Pickering Bible Commentary for Today)
It is this closeness to our powerful Messiah which we celebrate on Gaudete Sunday together. So let us faithfully recall those moments when we experienced, even though for a brief moment, the full power of the Kingdom of God. Let us recall yesterday’s Christmas Bazaar, the miracle, that through your service, God’s love attracted so many people to come in. People did not want to leave… Kids played together in excitement. The church, through your love, became the embassy of God’s Love.
Let us keep recalling these moments of rejoicing in our personal lives too. When were you caught up in Jesus’ wonderful kingdom of faith? Remember those moments when your heart was lifted up into that joy which only God can give? Let this recollection, and even more important, our renewed commitment to work on these coming moments, be our preparation for Christmas! When it is indeed true that ‘happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.’ Let us not lose those moments!
Enabled by Christmas (1:18-24)
This is often our experience that we arrive to Christmas unprepared. As adults, in particular, we seem to lose our ways and focus. The few days left of advent is indeed short. Yet by our readings in these last days, we are encouraged: it is never too late. The closer our God is, the closer his arrival, the more lavishly he showers us with his love and friendship. The judge of the world, Christ, in his second coming, just as at his first arrival, sends before him a wave of special grace.
It is striking to see how this enabling took place in the life of Mary and Joseph. For let us note that apart from the divine activity in conception, Christ’s birth was completely normal. He was not conceived until Mary was married. Joseph was Jesus’ father in every way except procreation. That is why their response to the arrival of Jesus (Messiah!) is an encouragement for our own ‘last-minute preparation.’
Why? God has lavishly showered challenges and blessings on them. Think of the sudden surprise by the angel, and the news that she is to conceive the son of God, the Messiah of the world. Think of Joseph, who learns that his betrothed conceived a child, in alarming circumstances, but not from him. And yet, God’s coming, like a meteorite, with its glowing light in the dark sky, gives them the extra strength for their preparation.
We see how Joseph changes, who initially wants to dismiss her. Yet, his dilemma, from the beginning is colored with the good intention that he was ‘unwilling to expose her to public disgrace.’ Mary would have faced penury and shame if Joseph had carried out his original plan to dismiss her. A little extra boost by a dream, grace changes his heart into that of a loving father. ‘When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.’ He became able to do so - in the power of the first coming Christmas.
We can also contemplate on Mary’s transformation by the Lord’s arrival. She says yes to the Angel’s invitation in no time. With this, she accepts all God’s support in the coming months. She becomes not only a careful mother, but a compassionate expectant mother, who goes and visits and serves Elisabeth.
We can see, how owing to their transformation, God, in turn, is entrusting his Son to Mary and Joseph’s care and protection. A yes to God is never late.
On the threshold of Christmas, at last, let us see to what Mary and Joseph, and we, in our last minute preparation, are responding to? It is God’s self-emptying, kenosis. God chooses to be born as a human person, in the humility of Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph are actually imitating this self-sacrifice and care by God.
Now it is our turn. What change can bring this Christmas to your life? To our life as a community? Think about it. Respond to the Lord’s coming through ‘last minute’ prayers, charity, and resolution. Became member of the Holy Family. And God will bless your openness.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..