Third Sunday of Advent
13 Dec 2023

Reading I:  Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11
Psalm: Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54
Reading II: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
Gospel: John 1:6-8, 19-28


As Advent advances, so does the urgency for God to do great things for us, for generations to come, and for all God’s creation. In the growing light cast by Advent’s rose candle, we rejoice. We rejoice, however, not by peering at the world through rose-colored glasses but rather because God has revealed reasons for rejoicing that extend beyond our vision and even beyond our hopes. God is near peddling extravagant promises. We meet God giving resplendent robes here, slathering prophets with the oil of gladness there, and sowing seeds of hope everywhere. God the patient gardener nurtures growth that will “make justice and praise spring up before all the nations”—including the ones now devastated by wars, by natural disasters, or by the malignant effects of social sin. God leans low to break what binds us, precluding the stigma and shame humans inflict on one another through poverty, racism, and constructing categories for exclusion. God alleviates anguish arising within when we flounder in our past failures and cannot forgive ourselves. God manifests mercy to the fearful. God helps. God heals. God the Almighty Holy One remembers us. With Emmanuel who is still coming, God continues unfurling the great plan to re-member us in and with Christ. The Spirit dwelling within and among us reminds us to remember when we forget – and to rejoice. “Rejoice in the Lord always,” exhorts the entrance antiphon for the Third Sunday of Advent; “again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.”

This God of generosity and justice grows our capacity to do nothing less than bear God within us, to act as Christ’s body in the world because of who we are in Christ, and to respond nimbly to the nudgings of the Spirit of God who is upon us and in us too. Like Isaiah, we have become anointed announcers who proclaim how favored we all are by God. And we rejoice! Like Mary, we acclaim God’s greatness and goodness to us and to all who are steadfast or stalled or struggling to attend to God’s logic and participate in God’s plans. And we rejoice! Following the trajectory of John the Baptist’s ministry, we attract the curious, admit who we are in relation to God’s coming, accept our identity in God’s great plan, and finally activate and animate the paving process that makes the way ready for God to come soon, to come now, to come again! And we rejoice with that voice crying out in the wilderness, and sometimes we rejoice as that lone-but-never-alone voice in the wilderness.

We keep rejoicing unrelentingly because God has come, will come, and is still coming. We are strengthened to be faithful because God who calls us and sends us was faithful first. When there is a gap between our calling and our sending for the service we were uniquely created for, we remember that the one who calls us is faithful and will accomplish the holiness in us that we could not otherwise dare to hope for ourselves. There is a map in CTU’s Atrium studded with stickers indicating “where God found us” and “where God sent us.” Whether we are well on our way or still waiting for the contours of our sending to be fully revealed as we set about our way-straightening work with the light we now have, we rejoice.

Sometimes God comes in us, who are Christ’s – who are now in Christ as God’s chosen, anointed ones through baptism, sealed with the unquenchable Spirit through our confirmation, nourished with the coming of that same Spirit into the eucharistic meal that is our manna in the wilderness of this world, a world where we hear the crying voices and are called to become the broken Body of Christ that we have received in communion. Sometimes we’re simply “sent” to the ones who find us—who find us rejoicing always, praying unceasingly, giving thanks predictably but also paradoxically, stoking rather than quenching the Spirit, welcoming and wondering with the prophets, sifting for goodness and saving it while letting everything else go, and avoiding evil as we are able. Gaudete – Rejoice!



Anne McGowan

Associate Professor of Liturgy