Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God. I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels. As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the Lord God make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
Brothers and sisters: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil. May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it.
Gospel Cycle Cycle B
John 1:6-8, 19-28
A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, “Who are you?” He admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, “I am not the Christ.” So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?” He said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord, as Isaiah the prophet said.” Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
God breaks into our world, seeking to love us and to draw us to Himself. The Prophet Isaiah begins the readings today, telling us that he rejoices because this is the time of salvation. Isaiah proclaims joy to the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives and the prisoners. This is a joy from God who loves them and us all, just as we are, and invites us to the banquet of eternal life. God Himself will make justice and praise spring up in front of the nations.
Such belief is a real challenge for us today. Will there really be justice? Will people praise God? It seems so very unlikely and yet it is the promise of a savior who will come to change all things. It is a promise of the Savior who has come and who has changed all things even when we cannot see it.
The First Letter to the Thessalonians makes us pay even more attention because it is a prayer that we will be blameless and perfectly holy for the coming of the Lord. This can only be through a divine intervention! We ourselves are not capable of this and yet it is the prayer of the Apostle Paul for us.
The focus of this Sunday is on joy and especialy the joy of Saint John the Baptist, who comes to proclaim another who is greater than he. The Gospel of John makes it clear that the people did not understand John the Baptist and some though that John the Baptist was the savior. John is so clear in his denial: I am not HE! John the Baptist has John describe himself as simply a voice crying in the desert: prepare the way of the Lord.
You are I are invited to be voices in the desert. We are invited to rejoice in the Lord today on this Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of rejoicing in the middle of Advent. You and I are invited to go before the Lord so that others can recognize Him.
If we are to proclaim this day of the Lord, then we must believe that Jesus is the Savior and that the world is completely changed, even when we do not see it. The world is transformed and we must strive to live out that tranformation. Our lives have changed radically in the Resurrection of the Lord and we want to live in the power of that Resurrection.
We seek to know the Lord more deeply in this time of Advent. These readings can open us up more completely to the Word. These readings can form us in the joy of the Risen Lord, the joy of the awaited Savior, the joy of God’s love.