Repent! Rejoice! Gaudete! ~ The Rt. Rev. Jay Van Lieshout, OPI

Brothers and Sister: Blessings to you all on this 3rd Sunday in Advent!   Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete!  Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!  And how good it is in this penitential season of introspection and preparation for the coming of the Lord, to turn our hearts with anticipation to joyous prospects of the return of the bridegroom.  What’s this you ask, joy in a season of repentance?  Amen I say to you, how better to prepare ourselves for the coming of the bridegroom then to sing praises and thanksgiving for all the Creator has given us; after all, are we not to be the torch bearers of the light of Christ into the darkness of the world and preachers of the Good News?  How good can the news be if its bearers trudge from place to place covered in ashes, donning sack cloth and and emanating an air of personal unworthiness?

Gaudete: iterum dico, gaudete, for the Lord has done great things for us! Our Creator knows of our imperfections and loves us just the same; when we, in our flawed nature, stray from the righteous path and commit transgressions, the Creator does not get mad or hold a grudge against us, but grieves with disappointment for our failings.  Then, when we repent, are we not forgiven and joyfully welcomed into the kingdom with open arms?  This is the Good News John the Baptist announced as a prelude to the coming of the and the Message Jesus Christ brought at His nativity, proclaimed in His ministry and sealed by His sacrifice on the cross.

As John preached repentance and prepared to baptize the faithful, they in turn asked what they should do so that they might be saved; his response surely must have bewildered them.  Surely they expected to be told to make an offering and sacrifice at the temple; yet they were instructed to share their bounty with those in need, to use fair and honest business practices, and to not blackmail or falsely accuse the innocent.  Would not offerings be better made at the temple to win the Lord’s favor than to give them to the poor or a stranger?  As we are told in Hosea (6:6) the Creator desires “ mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”  The Creator’s institution of sacrifice was to be a lesson in willingness to offer up what you have to the will of the Creator and an exercise against sins of hoarding and greediness.  Initially, for the small nomadic families, the practice would have demonstrated that giving up a portion for God’ work would not be a detriment but a blessing to the family, therefore, altruism and hospitality to a wandering stranger as the fulfillment of God’s will also provide blessings.  As populations grew and settled into cities, caring for the needy became centralized as a function of the temple and so communal sacrifice predominated with its many legal impediments and corruption flourished.  The Creator sent John to “make straight” the righteous path and bring the people back to the concept of hospitality and altruistic sacrifice as an individualize responsibility.  Jesus Christ made the final an ever lasting blood sacrifice by offering up Himself as the eternal and everlasting example of individual altruism, grace and the Creator’s love for humanity.

So on this 3rd Sunday in Advent, as the prophet Zephaniah has proclaimed: “Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!  The LORD has removed the judgment against you, The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love,” (Zep 3:15, 17).  The Good News is we are all loved by our Creator and Christ paid the ultimate sacrifice so that those who repent their transgressions and share their bounty with those less fortunate,will receive forgiveness and everlasting salvation in God’s heavenly kingdom. Brothers and Sisters, shed that air of sack cloth and ashes, lift up your heads, hands and hearts, sing praises of joy and thanksgiving for all that the Lord has done.  Radiate the hope, love and joy of the light of Christ as your carry the Good News to all you meet.  Repent and share your bounty with the strangers in need among us so that they too may cry out: “Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete!”

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