close up of a pink candle with tall flame

Dec. 12 | Carolyn D. Townes | Today's Readings

"Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again:  rejoice!" (Phil 4:4)

On this third Sunday of Advent, we hear invitations throughout the Mass readings to rejoice (Philippians 4:4), to cry out with joy (Isaiah 12:6), and to sing and shout joyfully (Zephaniah 3:14). 

This is wonderfully appropriate, as the third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday. “Gaudete” is the Latin word for rejoice, as sung in our antiphon. 

We continue to await our Savior’s coming; the days grow brighter as we light the third candle in the Advent wreath, its pink color meant to signify joy and rejoicing. As our readings instruct, we are to rejoice because our Savior’s arrival is near. 

Yet, in our Gospel reading, we also hear strong words from John the Baptist. 

John admonishes us to be mindful of the poor and those who go without. He tells us to share our clothes and our food — in other words, to give to those who lack their basic needs. 

John reminds us again and again to repent and prepare the way of the Lord. 

Though we are to be joyful at the arrival of the Lord, we must also recognize the presence of those who are on the margins of society. Christ’s joyful arrival should remind us that we are to always think about those who are less fortunate, those who go without day after day. 

It can seem confusing to receive two seemingly contradictory invitations – one to rejoice and be joyful and the other to repent and turn our lives around. These two invitations are the “both/and” of our faith lives. 

Our faith teaches us to honor and respect the dignity of the human person – no matter what their situation is in life. Like you and me, they are also made in the image and likeness of our God, and God loves them no less than he loves you and me. 

God created his only Son, as he created us, to show love, to be love, and to do love. We rejoice because we can do no less when we love. 

Meanwhile, the call to repentance helps us on the way to perfect love.

When we love as Jesus loves, we are mindful of those who are on the margins, those who do not feel the love of their neighbors as readily as they could or should. 

Joy is that deep, abiding feeling that wells up in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. It has nothing to do with our circumstances, and everything to do with the love of the triune God for each and every one of us.

On this festive Sunday of Advent, let us remember and pray for those who are incarcerated – physically and emotionally, with no signs of release or relief. 

As we bring love and joy to all God’s family, let us continue to lift up those who Jesus called the least of these.



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