Third Sunday of Advent

Readings

ZEP 3: 14-18A

PHIL 4: 4-7

LK 3: 10-18

Reflection

Advent is too short. Just when I get into it, it’s all over, especially when Christmas is on a Monday or Tuesday, as it is again this year. There is nothing left of a Fourth Week! At least this year it doesn’t creep up on us with the First Sunday of Advent at the end of the Thanksgiving holiday, but gives us another week to get ready.

Two weeks later, the Third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called Gaudete Sunday: “Rejoice”! By now, I have gotten into the swing of Advent, with its theme of longing for something beyond our daily lives. The liturgy of the first weeks of Advent is about promise, expectation, and yes, joy. The theme of joy is there from the beginning. It just gets stronger and more pronounced on this day. The opening prayer asks that we may be able to “attain the joys of so great a salvation.” Paul in the concluding chapter of his letter to the Philippians tells us to rejoice and have no anxiety because the Lord is near. Whether that is comforting or scary depends on how we think we are doing in our relationship with God.

But there is a caveat. “Your kindness should be shown to all.” The word Paul uses here that is translated “kindness” (epieikes), has to do with evenness, fairness and flexibility, adjusting to the needs of others without insisting on strict eye-for-eye justice, tit for tat. The Gospel reading from Luke picks up the same idea. John the Baptist is leading something of a renewal movement. He is asked by his followers: OK, we’re converted, we’re baptized. Now what? His answer is: be fair and even good to others. Those who have more than they need should share. Extortion, false accusations, and discontent have no place in your lives. 

What does this have to do with joy? Joy is not the happiness that might come from loving relationships or having everything we want. Joy is the elusive thing in the soul that is the sister of hope, and that can flourish in the most difficult circumstances. Joy is the effect of knowing that we are loved by God, and in response to that love, we offer our modest efforts to treat others as God would treat us.

Carolyn Osiek, RSCJ
Member, USD Board of Trustees
Archivist, Society of the Sacred Heart, United States-Canada Province
Charles Fischer Professor of New Testament Emerita, Brite Divinity School