Homily on the Third Sunday of Advent
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me. (IS 61:1; cited in LK 4:18)
This past week, our Holy Father Pope Francis made a wonderful announcement: A Year of St. Joseph (December 8, 2020-December 8, 2021). In his apostolic letter, Patris Corde, commemorating 150 years after St. Joseph was proclaimed the patron saint of the universal Church, the Pope pointed out to all during these months of the pandemic: “Each of us can discover in Joseph –the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble.”
When it comes to the Holy Year, the First Reading on this Gaudete Sunday is very important: “The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God” (Is 61:1-2). A little background information might help us appreciate the announcement of the prophet.
These are challenging words directed to the nation of Israel upon its return from exile, which came to an end in 538BC with the Persian victory over the Babylonians. The year following Israel’s return to its cherished land proved to be very tumultuous: There was the reconstruction of the temple and there was a need of political stability after Israel was occupied first by the Greeks and then by the Romans. As a result, the Hebrew religion is divided into competing sects that sought to win the people’s loyalty. These divisions caused hurt among the People of God and furthermore the sinful behaviors held them captive. Within these circumstances, Isaiah believed that he was anointed by God to announce the “year of favor from the Lord.” In this year, the “brokenhearted” are healed and those who were captives and prisoners by the reality of sins may be released. All of these happened due to the kindness of our God.
For all of us Christians, the above proclamation from Isaiah became even more important when Jesus read these in the synagogue at the beginning of his public ministry in the Gospel of Luke (Lk 4:16-19): “Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Lk 4:20-21). The Jubilee/Holy Year is Jesus. He was “anointed” by God to bring about the Jubilee. We professed our faith in “One Lord Jesus Christ.” Christ or Messiah means the anointed one of God. Jesus came from God and was anointed by God to bring us salvation.
This is the reason why in the Gospel of this Sunday people were thinking that the Baptist might be the Christ. He made a strong clarification “I am not the Christ . . . I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord.’”
On this Gaudete Sunday, we rejoice to know that Christmas, the beginning of our redemption, is near. With his birth, Jesus is about to inaugurate a Holy Year. We are called to be the voice like John the Baptist crying out in the desert. St. Paul in the second reading today gave us three verbs or three actions to be the voice for the Lord: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” We rejoice because with Christ is the Holy Year. We pray without ceasing because praying sustains us in our relationship with God. We give thanks because God never stops blessing us in Christ Jesus. For the remainder of Advent, let us rejoice, pray, and give thanks. Amen.