Gaudete! ~ The Rev. Frank Bellino, OPI

We have reached the midpoint in the Advent season.  Today in our Advent liturgy, we light the pink candle in our Advent wreath, as a symbol of celebration.  This is called Gaudete Sunday which means that we rejoice with joyful expectancy that the coming of the Lord is nearby.

In Isaiah 35:1-6,10, we are encouraged to rejoice and bloom in the wilderness.  What kind of wildernesses are we facing these days?  We are living in a consumerist society where everything is centered on me, myself and I.  We want things that we don’t need.  We yearn for things that do not give us lasting joy because they are not life-giving.  Our experience of wildernesses may consist of hate, power, fear, anxiety, deprivation, greed, and so many other types of darkness that we find it hard to be joyful.  Yet through all our materialistic vices, there is hope that God is coming to save us.  God is coming to give us new life in our wilderness.  No more shall the blind be blind, or the deaf remain deaf.  God is offering us life that we are unable to fathom, a life that will make us exuberant with everlasting joy!

In the Second Reading, James teaches us to be patient as we await the Lord’s coming.  As the rancher waits patiently for the autumn and spring rains to fall in order to produce a great crop, so it is with the coming of Christ.  He will water the soil of our hearts and it will produce good crops of goodness, kindness and joyfulness.

In Matthew’s Gospel today, we hear of John the Baptist in prison, who has heard of what Jesus was doing through curing the sick, healing the lame, giving sight to the blind and preaching the Kingdom of God and raising the dead.  John sends messengers to Jesus to ask if He was “the one who is to come.”  John is shown in another Gospel calling his disciples to “prepare the way of the Lord, make His path straight.”  John seems confused or doubtful about Jesus.  Jesus does not answer his question but tells John’s messengers “not [to] lose faith in me, for the deaf hear, the blind see, the lame walk, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”  Jesus, here, does not proclaim Himself as the Messiah, but proclaims the Kingdom of God.  Isaiah had prophesied before (Is. 26:19) “that the dead will live.” This has happened, because Jesus, the Messiah has brought the dead to life.  By asking John’s disciples three questions about John, Jesus enlightens them – that they have gone to the wilderness to see a prophet.  But He conveys that John is “more than a prophet”.  He is the Messenger sent by God to “prepare the way of the Lord.  We read in Isaiah 40:3: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God’…”  Indeed, John is presented as the greatest of human beings.  John himself, however, proclaims, “There is one greater than I, and I am not worthy to undo the strap of His sandal.”  In the Gospel, (Mt 11:11), Jesus speaks of His disciples (including us) when He declares that “the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than John the Baptist”.

So, as children of Mary, the new Eve, we are called like her to proclaim the Good News of salvation right where we are.  We are called to re-think our lives, to repent of our old ways and to live straight paths for God.  How do we do this?  By aligning our ministry with Jesus’s, by caring for one another, by being His true disciples and by bringing hope and joy.