Third Sunday of Advent – Gaudete Sunday: Jesus is joy

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By Chilima Muntanga, SJ

Readings: Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10; Ps 146:6-7, 8-9a, 9b-10; James 5:5-10; Mathew 11:2-11

As we wait for the birth of Jesus at Christmas, we celebrate this Sunday the Advent Sunday of Joy. As Christians, we celebrate also the Joy of making others joyful. For the Israelites, the word Messiah meant the ‘anointed one,’ the one who would bring healing, salvation, and empowerment to Israel. As a result, they looked forward to this healing, salvation, and empowerment.

We are looking for the signs of the true Messiah

In the First Reading, God reminds us that He will come and save the people of Israel himself. Consequently, the Israelites looked for two signs. Firstly, they looked for signs when “the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the lily, it shall blossom abundantly,” the times when the coming of the Lord is nearing. Secondly, they looked for the time when the anointed one has been and is in their midst, the signs of the time when “the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; […when] the lame man leaps like a deer and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.” This indeed was a joyful waiting.

In the Second Reading, we are given the disposition to be patient until the Lord’s coming. “Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we are waiting” – Joyce Meyer. At this, the second reading paints the image of a farmer patiently waiting for the fruit of the earth. The assumption is that, in patience, we planted, watered and pruned well our vines – a symbolism of planting, watering and pruning our joy in the one who is the true joy – Jesus. This is the best way to advance to looking for the signs of the true Messiah, both within and around us.

The true joy of a Christian is found in making others joyful

In the Gospel, John the Baptist sends his disciples to Jesus with a question; “are you he who is to come, or shall we wait for another?” In response, Jesus sends them back to go and tell John what they have seen; the promise to Israel is being fulfilled – the blind receive sight and the lame walk. More to this promise, even the dead are raised and the good news is being preached to the poor. These are the signs that the anointed one is indeed in their midst. The joy of waiting patiently has been fulfilled.

As we joyfully wait for the birth of the savior, Jesus is inviting us to take a moment and count our blessings and know that indeed he is among us always – Emmanuel. For when we know what God has done in our lives, we grasped the true meaning of being joyful – choosing Jesus. Joyful waiting means that we deliberately accepting being sent by Jesus to go and be witnesses of God’s deeds to others; to go and be living testimonies of God’s love to others; to go and be ‘signposts’ of where true joy is found – in Jesus. Jesus is inviting us to choose to be signposts that direct others to his coming. Surely, the difference between a good sign post from a bad one is found in our individual answers to one question, “Am I a joyful person?” Remember, you can only give out what you have! Choosing joyfulness in Jesus is the only way of living out the joy of being called Christians. A Christian makes others joyful. The true joy of a Christian is found in making others joyful. True joy is found in Jesus. True joy is Jesus.

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