Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11; Psalm – Luke 1:46-50, 53-54; 1Thess. 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28
We have four homily notes available please scroll down the page. God bless you!
Fr. Galadima Bitrus, OSA: Rejoice!
Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai: Rejoice: Contentment and Hope
Fr. Paul Oredipe: Rejoice: Christian Joy
Fr. Evaristus Okeke: Rejoice in the Lord always!
Fr. Galadima Bitrus, OSA
Last Sunday (the 2nd of Advent), the theme of the good news of consolation and liberation (euangelion) was at the heart of the liturgical readings. On this 3rd Sunday, the readings focus our attention on the theme of joy. In fact, this 3rd Sunday is also called “Gaudete” Sunday, a Latin expression meaning “Rejoice.” The liturgical colour is pink or rose, a delicate colour that symbolizes grace, tenderness and joy.
In the 1st Reading (Isaiah 61:1-2a.10-11), the prophet Isaiah asserts his prophetic vocation, declaring: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me” (v.1a). He also declares his mission statement as “bringing good tidings to the humiliated.” The prophet goes further to outline his program of action, what we might call his “apostolate” as consisting of binding up wounded hearts, proclaiming release to the captives and liberation to the imprisoned, and a year of the Lord’s grace (vv.1-2a).
In other words, the anointed man (māšîaḥ) upon whom rests the Spirit of the Lord God (Rȗaḥ Adonai Elohim), sees himself as a healer of broken hearts, securer of freedom, and one who reconciles. Jesus will later present himself in similar terms (see Luke 4:16-20).
The idea of proclaiming release to captives and the Lord’s year of grace or favour echoes Leviticus 25:10, where it is applied to Israelite farmers who, having lost their land, were forced into servitude. Leviticus stipulates that in the fiftieth year, there shall be restoration, everyone shall regain their land. Deutero-Isaiah applies this concept to Israel as a whole, which in 586 BCE lost its land and was forced into servitude in Babylon. Fifty years after, however, Judeans regained access to their ancestral land following the Edict of Cyrus, king of Persia, which allowed Judeans to leave Babylonia and return home to rebuild both the city of Jerusalem and the temple.
The joy of Judeans over this victorious restoration is aptly expressed across Isaiah 60-61. Jerusalem became once again so glorious and shining that it attracted not only returnees from exile but also foreign nations coming to visit and honour her.
Effectively, restoration of the joy and dignity of a humiliated people characterizes the man upon whom the spirit of the Lord has found its dwelling, the one who has received the Lord’s anointing.
As baptized persons who have received the Spirit of the Lord and his anointing, we are all incorporated into this identity and mission: we are commissioned to be champions of the oppressed and humiliated. We must be for them reliable allies, offering them consolation and audacious hope in the possibility of full and even greater restoration of their dignity, freedom, splendour and joy.
In the 2nd Reading (1 Thessalonians 5:16-24), Saint Paul identifies being joyful, prayerful and thankful as God’s will in Christ Jesus for the believers in Thessalonica: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances” (vv. 17-18).
While he also admonishes them to be open to the working of the Holy Spirit in individuals and not quench it, he calls for discernment, being able to embrace what is good and genuine, and discard what is evil and fake (vv. 19-22). Finally, he prays for the gift of sanctification and wellbeing of spirit, soul and body, assuring that God who has called them is faithful and will thus bring about such desired spiritual and bodily wellbeing (vv. 23-24).
For a community of new converts coming from two ancient religious traditions of paganism and Judaism, the assurance of God’s faithfulness in taking care of their physical and spiritual wellbeing was necessary to ensure that the new Christian community of Thessalonica daily bears witness to its foundational values of the joy of the gospel, and of being a praying and eucharistic (thanksgiving) community.
Last Sunday, we had the Markan account of the presentation of John the Baptist as a prelude to the presentation of Jesus, both figures being placed within Israel’s prophetic tradition (Mark 1:1-8). There, Jesus is presented as the messiah and John as his forerunner. In today’s Gospel (John 1:6-8.19-28), we have the Johannine account of the presentation of John the Baptist where Jesus is presented as Light and John as one who bears witness to the light.
In the Markan account, John identifies Jesus’ superiority not only in his (John’s) being unworthy to untie the thong of his sandals but also in the fact that while he (John) baptized only with water, Jesus baptized with the Holy Spirit. In the Johannine account we read today, John clearly confesses he is not the Christ, nor the prophet nor Elijah whose return was expected to herald the messianic age (see Malachi 3:23). In a word, he was in no way to be confused with the Messiah and was unworthy of being even the Messiah’s servant. He was only a voice calling out for repentance and openness to God’s reign.
Clearly, John the Baptist was a prophet and was to Jesus who Elijah was expected to be to the coming Messiah. In fact, Jesus speaks of him in terms reminiscent of the Elijah that was to come before the Messianic age (see Matthew 17:9-13). In some instance, Jesus speaks of him as more than a prophet and the greatest of those born of women (Matthew 11:9-11). John was also certainly not unworthy of untying Christ’s sandals. He was even worthy of presenting him to the world and testifying that he is the Lamb of God and Son of God and the one upon whom the Spirit descended (John 1:29.32.34).
But the joy of John the Baptist was in witnessing to Jesus and not himself, in glorifying Jesus and not himself, hence, his motto: “He [Jesus] must increase and I [John] must decrease” (John 3:30). In this, he is an example to all of us who witness to Christ and his gospel: Christ must increase and we must decrease. Or as the psalmist puts it, “Not to us Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory!” (Psalm 115:1).
May we find joy in witnessing to Jesus and in standing with and for the humiliated and oppressed around us and around the world! Happy Sunday!
Rev. Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai
Rejoice: Contentment and Hope
The third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word for “rejoice.” This Sunday is so named because “Rejoice” is the first word in the entrance antiphon for today’s Mass taken from Phil.4:4-5: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.” This Sunday is a joyful reminder that our salvation is near. We are called to rejoice in the Lord and not in the world. A drunk rejoices in the world; a scammer rejoices in the world; a fornicator rejoices in the world. This kind of joy beloved is a mirage. So we are to rejoice in the Lord. We rejoice in the Lord when we pray, when we give alms, when we place our hope in God not man. Therefore, today we shall be looking at the theology of rejoicing, gratitude and witnessing.
It’s interesting that the shortest verse in the Greek New Testament is, “Rejoice always” (1 Thess. 5:16). The shortest verse in the English New Testament is, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). They are not contradictory! Our Savior could weep and yet have the fullness of joy. Precisely because of this Paul says in Rom.12:15 rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Matt.5:4 blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. So, we ought to comfort those who mourn not laugh at them. We ought to share in the joy of those who are happy and not be saddened or jealous. Matt.2:13 Herod rather than share in the joy of the birth of the new born king he wanted to kill him. Some people are like that; rather than share in your joy and progress they will want to take away your joy. Again, don’t laugh at those who mourn; Matt.27:39-44 when Jesus died on the cross people passing by hurled insults at him, the chief priests, teachers of the Law and the elders mocked him saying “He saved others but cannot save himself.” Even the bandits insulted him as well. So, if you laugh at those who mourn you are like this chief priests and elders and if you don’t share in people’s joy you are not different from Herod. Don’t laugh at those who mourn or who are down. Micah 7:8 rejoice not over me oh my enemy for if I fall is shall arise when I sit in darkness the Lord shall be my light.
Again, this theology of rejoicing does not imply that there shall never be moment of grief. So we would misapply Paul’s words if we think that Christians will never be sad or grieved. Mary is regarded as our Lady of sorrows yet she is also the cause of our joy; all the psalms in the Bible are narratives of joys and pains. So, when the second reading says “rejoice in the Lord always”; it simply means we should have an attitude of contentment and hope that transcends circumstances. Though our hearts may be heavy with sorrow because of trials, beneath the surface is the abiding confidence that our God is powerful and that our lives are in His hands. To rejoice always means contentment and hope. Contentment when there is plenty and hope when there is nothing.
Again we have the theme of gratitude in today’s readings We have wonderful song in two voices. Mary’s voice and Isaiah’s voice. Mary’s voice in the Psalms and Isaiah’s voice in the first reading. In Is.61:10 Isaiah magnifies God for the gift of grace and Mary magnifies God for the gift of grace in the song called the Magnificat. Both sang in gratitude to God. Often times we take this grace for granted; we take our faith for granted; we take life for granted; we take the Church for granted, we take our ministers for granted; we even take our husbands and our wives for granted; we take our children for granted and many others that we don’t value. Let us be mindful of the working hand of God in those around us and appreciate God for the gift we have received.
The Second reading unites this message of joy and gratitude with prayer. It says “Rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances.” Thus, we can only rejoice constantly if we are praying constantly. So Jesus told his disciples in Matt.26:41 watch and pray that you don’t fall into temptation. That is, pray that your joy is not taking away from you. In prayer we are vigilant and so we must be vigilant that nothing denies of our joy. We must be vigilant for our redemption is near and we must be vigilant until we enter into the salvation of our God.
Lastly, in the Gospel John knew that his role was to bring people to Christ. He knew his role, played his role and left the stage then he said in John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Often times we are not satisfied we our roles, we want other people’s roles. We must learn to play our role in the body of Christ. Generally our role is to bring people to Christ. John brought people to Christ by the Spirit, in humility and courage. We too must witness by the Spirit, humility and courage.
Fr. Paul Oredipe:
REJOICE : CHRISTIAN JOY
Today we begin the third week of our preparation and waiting for the coming of the Lord – 3rd Sunday of Advent. In the tradition of the Church, this Sunday is known as Gaudete, a latin word which means “Rejoice”. Our liturgy today highlights the theme of Joy. From the opening words of the Entrance Antiphon in the Missal, the Opening Prayer, the Responsorial Psalm and the Second Reading, this theme of Joy is continually reinforced and emphasized.
In the Gospel passage, we read that people from different walks of life reacted to John the Baptist preaching by asking about his identity. “Who are you?” As John continued to cry out for them to prepare the way of the Lord, they were touched and so came to him and asked – “Who are you?” This question is constantly repeated in the gospel passage we have just listened to. Like those people, we too today in the midst of our doubts, problems and anxieties ask the same question in one way or another and more particularly during such seasons as Advent. “Who is this person – John the Baptist?”
However, it is important to realize that underneath this question is a deeper search for the person of Christ. In asking for the personality of John the Baptist, the issue at stake is the identity and mission of Christ. There was a great expectation of the Messiah. So to be sure, the Jews sent priests and Levites to ask John. The answer given by John is quite brief but very rich in content and meaning. “a voice in the desert, crying out: Make straight the way of the Lord”
John came as a voice to announce the coming of Christ the Messiah. He has come to prepare a people for the Lord and to point out the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He did this by his voice and his life.
We are the John the Baptist of today. It is our irreplaceable responsibility as Christians to prepare ourselves and others for the coming of the Messiah. What kind of people we should be while waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ at Christmas, and in that perspective for His final coming to judge the living and the dead. One of the ways to prepare is what our liturgy highlights today: REJOICE – for the Lord is near.
While waiting with faith and hope, we as Christians have to rejoice. Advent is not a gloomy season despite the traditional use of the same liturgical colour as for Lent. Of course, Advent has a penitential aspect.
Advent is marked by a crescendo of joy. As the coming of the Lord draws nearer and nearer, so we become more excited. The rhythm of Advent is well captured by the Advent wreath which starts with one lighted candle and ends with four.
In his letter to the Philippians, St Paul reminded us of the grounds for rejoicing. “Rejoice in the Lord always”, he said,” Again I will say, rejoice”. And straightaway, he gave the reason for doing so, and one surpassing reason, above all – “The Lord is at hand”. The imminence of the coming of the Lord is the keynote of this Third Sunday of Advent and the reason for the joy of its Liturgy.
In the midst of that difficult environment in which they were living, always harsh and often violently aggressive, the Apostle suggests to them the best remedy “Rejoice”. This is more admirable when we consider that when he wrote this letter St Paul himself was shut up in prison. On another occasion, in extraordinary difficult circumstances, the same Apostle wrote (now to the Church in Corinth) “I am filled with consolation. With all our afflictions, I am overjoyed” (2 Cor 7.4).
One of the great contributions of Christianity is that it has brought joy to the world. We are very much familiar with a well known Christmas hymn – “Joy to the world”. In a few days, it will be Christmas, a great feast for us Christians, but also for the whole human race, which, without knowing it, is looking for Christ. Christmas is coming and we are asked to be joyful.
This is something essential and indispensable to our Christian life. Many of us are more familiar with the gospel message of carrying the cross than of its abiding characteristics of joy. We tend to think of Jesus as the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, yet as He concluded his ministry and was about to leave, Jesus says – “These things I have spoken to you that my joy might be in you and your joy be complete” (John 15:11). While there is hardship and suffering in the life of Jesus, there is joy, which is compatible with pain.
A Christian can never be a lonely person, since he or she lives in continual contact with God, who is both near us and in heaven.
We were created for happiness. It is the purpose of our whole being and we spend our lives searching and striving to attain it. Somehow, this happiness seems to escape us as we go searching after it in the wrong places. Our greatest mistake is to equate joy with pleasure and to look for it in material things. We can buy pleasure and it will cost us dearly, but all the money in the world cannot purchase happiness. Christian joy however is not just any sort. It is something deeper and richer than the smile and laughter upon a happy face.
Authentic Christian joy comes from an unshakeable (confirmed) awareness that God is with us and this produces a contentment and an inner peace that can not be taken from us. Friendship with God is the source of Christian joy. It is a joy which is found in love and service. It is the joy of Christ which brings justice and peace. This joy is not given by the world but by Christ Himself.
Our joy cannot and should not depend exclusively on changeable circumstances like good news either from a friend or the media, good health, peace and quiet, enough money and having all the material possessions we would like. All these things are good in themselves if they do not separate us from God, but they are not able to provide us with real and lasting joy. No trials can drown this joy since it is born of faith.
Even in the midst of difficulties, failures, contradictions and trials, when we see the threat of injustice or suffer its cruelty, our Christian joy will prove to be a source of strength. It will also serve to attract other people to the Faith. In those circumstances, such joy is not a deceptive illusion or an irresponsible means of escapism. If our joy is authentic, the circumstances that surround us are never immutable or conclusive, because our joy is founded on faithfulness to God in carrying out our duty and in embracing His will.
The beatitudes are for us guidelines and ideals which we should pursue constantly. In so doing, our Lord has promised us joy. “Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16.22). Unless we separate ourselves from its source, nothing and nobody can take away this joyful peace. If we are truly seeking the Lord in our life, nothing can take away our peace and joy.
As Christians, we need to have this joy which Christ gives and preserves in us. In addition, it is our task to share and spread this joy. As the Latin adage says “Nemo dat quod non habet” – No one can give what he does not have. The response of John the Baptist to the question of the people in the Gospel passage of today gives us a glimpse of the forms that such sharing and spreading of our joy can take. Joy is the fruit of love. The greater our love, the greater will be our joy. Without the joy that comes from self-giving, all commandments become difficult and almost impossible to fulfill.
A Christian who does not radiate joy because of his love for God needs to take a closer look at his or her spiritual life. The apostolate, to which you and I are called to, more urgently in this season of Advent, is that of transmitting to others the joy and peace of Christ, especially in our world of today. We do great good around us with our joy, for this brings others to God. Joy is usually the best example of love for those around us.
Let us remember the first Christians. Their life was attractive because of the peace and joy with which they did the commonplace things of ordinary life. Ours today should not be different, but even improve on this. One particularly important place in which we need to sow and spread great joy is the family. Our homes should be bright and cheerful because Christ is the head. We should bring our joy to the place where we work, to our business associates, study mates, to people we met even on the street and into all our social relations.
The more important our duties, the more important is it that our attitude should be one of Christian joy. The world is cold, apprehensive and anxious. It is in dire need above all, of the peace and joy the Lord has given us. When this joy spills over into other men and women, it gives birth to hope, to optimism, to impulses to be generous in our daily toil, and spread its welcome contagion to the whole of society.
On the first Christmas, when God came down in the person of Jesus, He filled the world with glad tidings of great joy. His life was geared towards God the Father in joy, prayer and thanksgiving. We are often so caught up with our daily problems that we fail to reflect the joy of that marvellous truth: ‘that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son and that whoever believes in him might not die but may have eternal life’ (John 3:16).
There is no greater proof of love than to give of ourselves to others. Our Christmas joy cannot be complete unless we show generosity to those who have nothing to give to us in return. We cannot reflect the light who is Christ if we live by values that do not even remotely resemble those of the gospel. After 2020 years, are we now better able to recognize Christ in the persons of the ordinary men and women in our midst together with their unimpressive attitudes, habits and appearances?
May our celebration today renew and strengthen this joy in each of us through Christ our Lord. Amen.
JOY Jesus Others Yourself
Fr. Evaristus Okeke:
Rejoice in the Lord always!
Bible Guide: “ _…He who is mighty has done great things for me…” (Lk.1:49)
Today being the third Sunday of advent is traditionally referred to as Guadete Sunday. Guadete simply means Rejoice. So today, the readings exalts us to rejoice in the Lord. It is for this reason that the liturgical colour of this day is Rose. The one whom we are expecting has not yet come, yet we are called upon to rejoice. Is it ever a wise thing to count your chicks before they are hatched? NO! This is because you never can tell how many of the eggs will hatch and how many will be bad. This uncertainty does not surround our expectation of the Messiah both in his coming and in his person.
The messiah will surely come uninterrupted. Again, he will be as powerful as expected and will be able to save us even beyond our expectation. Because there is no probability for disappointment, we are already filled with JOY this day as the coming of the Lord draws nearer. What gives us Joy is certainty. The readings of today differently present certain facts about the Messiah which would necessarily make us joyful.
In the first reading, Isaiah noted that however powerful and glorious the Lord is, he will not forget the poor. This is something that can hardly be said of earthly kings. More often than not, when people are seeking political offices, they stoop down to the grassroots campaigning for votes but the moment they are elected, it becomes impossible for the grassroots to reach out to them. It seems that the rich only remembers the poor when they want to use them.
Isaiah is saying to us that the Lord will never forget the poor; he will attend to their needs. With the Lord, the child of a nobody will become somebody without knowing anybody. The salvation that comes from the Lord will not be the exclusive right of the rich and influential. In the responsorial psalm, we find the canticle of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The song of praise she sang when she received the unexpected news that her poor self will be the mother of the Saviour.
Beloved, though you may not have human connection; rejoice that you are divinely connected. You may not have the praises of men; rejoice that your ways please the Lord. You may not have all the good things money can buy; rejoice that you have been abundantly given that which money cannot buy. You may not have reached your set goal for this year; rejoice that you have survived all the unfortunate incidents that happened this year. We rejoice not because all is perfect but because the Joy of the Lord has been our strength (cf.Neh.8:10).
In the gospel reading, we encounter (as we did last Sunday), the person and mission of John the Baptist. The content of today’s gospel is the same with that of last Sunday, only that today is John’s account while last Sunday was Mark’s account. The people had the believe that before the Messiah comes, Elijah will first come again; for this reason, they inquired about the identity of John the Baptist since he was baptizing people, preaching repentance and speaking about the coming of the Messiah.
What specifically gave John joy in his mission was his humble admittance of his person. He said: “I am not the Christ… I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness…even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie”. Humility brings peace and where peace reigns, joy is abundant. The humility of John made him not to live beyond his means. He was contented with who he is and what had been entrusted to him. He did not consider that Jesus was only a younger cousin brother to him. He did not begin to place emphasis on age just to claim a sense of superiority over Jesus.
On our part too, if we must experience real joy within us, we must try to live within our means and be contended with who we are and what has been assigned to us. Without contentment we will tilt towards different vices such as envy, character assassination, false accusation, and so on. The One who comes at Christmas is not promising you worldly greatness above others but salvation. When St. Augustine was commenting on Psalm 109, he described the kind of Joy the Lord gives to us: “He (God) has promised men divinity, mortals immortality, sinners justification, the poor a rising to glory”. He also explained how men deprive themselves of this joy: “…because God’s promises seemed impossible to men, equality with the angels is exchange for mortality, corruption, poverty, weakness, dust and ashes.
Beloved, the source of our Joy is in the certainty of the Lord’s coming and in his might. Therefore, let us always keep to heart the words of St. Paul in the second reading: “He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it”. God Bless You!