The Third Sunday of Advent [B]
Isaiah 61:1-2,10-11 + 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 + John 1:6-8,19-28
December 13, 2020
“Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I say, rejoice!”
In the RCIA process, the Church’s candidates and catechumens are introduced to many of the teachings and customs of the Church. During Advent, for example, they are learning about the meaning of the Advent wreath and how to make use of it in one’s home. They are also learning what the Church believes about the Incarnation of God the Son in the person of Jesus.
However, while the Church can speak to her catechumens and candidates about the joy that fills the hearts of Christians at Christmas, she cannot tell them that they will experience that joy in their hearts.
This is true of the whole process of RCIA, and in fact, it’s true of the entire Christian life. A person can become a professor of Catholic theology and an expert on the traditions and customs of Catholic peoples throughout the world. Yet unless the individual works with the Holy Spirit, he will not share fully in the life of Christ. Nor will any Christian be able to fulfill the command of St. Paul in this Sunday’s Second Reading: “Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I say, rejoice!”
The heart of St. John the Baptist’s message in this Sunday’s Gospel Reading is that we are responsible for preparing a path into our hearts for the Holy Spirit to rush. We have still a week and a half to examine seriously our consciences and to approach God in the beautiful Sacrament of Penance.
Once we allow God to clear away the debris of sin, and once we devote ourselves to making an examination of conscience a more regular part of our lives, we can begin to sense the workings of the Spirit. Then instead of acting simply according to our own self-interest and self-will, we are more easily disposed to God’s will, and to being moved by His Holy Spirit. We can more easily imitate Mary, whose hymn we hear this Sunday in the response to the First Reading.
Our mind’s gaze is turned toward this woman, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the first and best disciple of Jesus. She completely accepted Christ into her life by opening herself to the working of the Holy Spirit. Mary is showing us how to prepare ourselves during these weeks of waiting for the Lord’s Coming. As we wait to celebrate the mysteries of Christmas, we must keep in mind that Christmas will make demands of us. Sharing in the celebration of Christmas means a share in Mary’s responsibility of bearing and caring for Christ in the world.
“My spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” Mary proclaims these words in the response to this Sunday’s First Reading. Her own human spirit did not rejoice in herself, her accomplishments, her talents, or her treasure. She rejoiced only in God, who saved her through His grace, and who taught her how to give herself and everything she had to God.
This is the sacrifice we seek to imitate in our own lives. This is the sort of sacrifice we prepare to celebrate in the Christmas season. This is the sort of sacrifice we witness when we attend Holy Mass. When we join ourselves spiritually to the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, God calls us to receive Christ’s Body and Blood. God makes this call so that we might show that same depth of love in our lives, rejoicing to able to wait for the Lord’s coming in Christmas.