December 11, 2022 – Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/121122.cfm)
Recently, Bro. Karl Gaspar, CSsR, a confrere of mine was hospitalized for three weeks and was admitted in the Intensive Care Unit due to complications of his veins for his regular dialysis. When he got better and can finally able to move, he sent a message that somehow captured what he has been through in the past three weeks. And I would like to share with you his message and reflection that brings us deeper into this Season of Waiting, of Advent.
“WAITING…the last 3 weeks in the hospital was waiting to breathe again, waiting to have drops of water down my throat, waiting for pain to subside, waiting for wounds to heal, waiting for the doctors to make the right decisions, waiting for visitors who never arrived due to protocols, waiting for prayers to be answered. These waiting hours certainly help to understand the biblical meaning of keeping watch of the dark night to make truly appreciate the gift of light that shines on Christmas Day!”
What Bro. Karl expressed would certainly tell us how waiting for something good to happen can become frustrating and even tiring. Yet, what Bro. Karl also shared speak to us that there are many things in our life that are not under our control. Thus, we wait for prayer to be answered and we hope that it would be the one we are hoping for.
Just as what Bro. Karl shared, I am sure many could also relate well when we also face realities of waiting and hoping. We wait that we may be healed from our sickness. We wait that our relationships will be repaired. We wait that our anger and hatred may subside and be reconciled. We wait that the person we long for may at last come to us. We wait to be loved. We wait to be embraced and accepted. We wait that our problems and issues may be solved. We wait that our financial debt may be fully paid. We wait that our dreams may come true.
However, there are also those who may wait longer than others. The longer we wait, the more we also lose our patience, our peace, hence, becoming anxious and disturbed. Frustrations and discouragements may come to us to the point that we could also feel that we are about to surrender. To stop fighting. To stop dreaming. To stop waiting. To stop hoping. And these are realities in our life.
Indeed, when our suffering, anxiety and frustrations in life become overwhelming, others would succumb and stop at all. This is how we find ourselves become lifeless and passive, or when we allow our anger and hatred to consume us, or when we let our bitterness and guilt control us. This is how we also lose our focus and patience.
For this reason, the Letter of James speaks to us today reminding us “to be patient.” James, in his wisdom employed the image of a farmer who waits for the precious fruit of the earth. James actually tells us that there is a process in everything. Like, healing is a process. Reconciliation is a process. Growth is a process. Building healthy relationship is a process.
James affectionately tells us to trust the process of God and to trust his grace to work in us. This is how James also reminds us again “not to complain about one another that we may not judge.” He is basically telling us not to allow our bitterness and negativities to hold us back and to let us lose hope.
This brings us now into the experience of the Hebrew people who for more than 700 years earlier from the time James wrote the letter, were being exiled and subjected to slavery. This is what we find in the Book of Prophet Isaiah. His prophecy was addressed to these Hebrew people who had been in such miserable and depressing life situation. The people were removed from their homeland and were exiled to Babylon. At that time of their captivity, the people had to walk approximately 1,700 miles or about 2,735 kilometers. The people believed that this happened to them because of their unfaithfulness and because their leaders turned away from Yahweh. And so the people longed to be rescued by God. Yet, the years and years that had passed and the suffering and slavery they had to endure had made them frustrated and discouraged. They felt abandoned. They lost their patience to wait. They felt hopeless. I am sure, they too have asked, “Will God come to save us? Will the Lord help us?”
To give them hope, Isaiah appeared in their midst and proclaimed to them what the Lord promised. Isaiah proclaimed, “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God… he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.” These are images of healing, reconciliation, restoration, freedom and fullness of life – as Isaiah also prophesied, “they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.”
And this is good news because what the prophet actually calls us is to have a reason to rejoice because God has come. This is the reason why on this Third Sunday of Advent we lighted the third candle in the advent wreath. That is the Candle of Joy that calls us to rejoice. In fact, today is called Gaudete Sunday, which means, “REJOICE!” Through the prophet, God speaks to his people telling them, “I HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN YOU! AND I WILL NEVER ABANDON YOU!” The words in the first reading is God’s joyful promise to his people. God comes and we will surely rejoice.
This is being reechoed in our Gospel today. John the Baptist who was in prison felt the same despair and disappointment. And we can sense this in his question for Jesus. John asked, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” John must be desperate because he too was suffering. He was surely brave yet, he too asked the Lord and needed a confirmation to give him hope. He had been preaching about the joyful coming of the Messiah who will come to bring justice in the world and uplift the poor and the oppressed.
In response, Jesus told the disciples of John to go and tell John what they have heard and saw. Thus, Jesus says, “Look around you. Look at what’s happening – blind people see, lame people walk, deaf people hear, lepers are cleansed, dead people are raised to life, poor people for a change receive good news.” This is the true Messiah – the one who comes to alleviate suffering, to heal broken hearts, and to give hope to the hopeless.
In recollection, how does Gaudete Sunday calls us now? The call to rejoice in the presence of our God is a call to look around us and to recognize how Jesus becomes more present in us and among us.
Remember, Jesus becomes more present with us and in our lives when we Christians become more like him. This is how we are called today, which means that when we ourselves become healers and consolers of the afflicted, promoters of reconciliation, generous givers, advocates of justice and honesty, builders of the kingdom of God in our communities, spreaders to others that God has come and is our friend and become life-giving persons in our homes and workplaces, then, we become the presence of the Messiah today. This is truly good news! A reason to be joyful! Sana all. Kabay pa.