Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent Year B
Rejoice ... pray ... give thanks. Today is Gaudete Sunday and these are some of the words that appear in the readings we have listened to and they rightly describe what the season of Advent is all about.
While the world is scrambling and shopping for perfect Christmas gifts, we are being asked today to rejoice, pray, and give thanks. Although gifts, feasts and decorations are all good, they amount to nothing when compared to the greatest gift of all time, Jesus Christ, the Word of the Father.
In these last days of Advent, our hearts ought to beat just a little faster in anticipation of hearing those words at the Gospel of Midnight Mass: “Today in the city of David a saviour has been born for you who is Christ and Lord”.
Think for a moment of a child looking at a beautifully wrapped gift beneath the Christmas tree. It might be there for weeks prior to Christmas itself. The child will look at that gift and try to imagine what it is. He or she will be anxiously waiting for Christmas morning to arrive to know what is inside.
It is that same joyful, eager anticipation of that child that the Church wants to capture during Advent. For the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ, is about to make His entry into our hearts and souls.
The anticipation and joy of Advent should drive us into a life of prayer. In today’s second reading, Paul tells the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing”. During Advent, we are asked to stop all activities and spend some extra time in prayer. Just be with the Lord, the One who is about to enter our heart and soul. How best can we do that?
In Advent, we can pray over the infancy narratives in Matthew (chapters 1-3), Luke (chapters 1-3), and the Prologue (chapter 1) of John. Read a bit each day, slowly, taking in all the words and images. We will come to know Jesus, His mother Mary, John the Baptist, and Joseph intimately by Christmas. This will help us welcome the Saviour on Christmas day.
We should also try and attend daily Mass during Advent to hear the beautiful readings from Isaiah and Paul, which will help us find Christ. We should also receive His Body and Blood to be one with Him. The Sacrament of Reconciliation will help us clean the slate of our souls from sin and darkness, to be ready for Christ.
Finally, in Advent, we should give thanks to God for all the gifts He has bestowed on us. In Advent, however, we should realize that we have been given the greatest gift of all, the gift of salvation, redemption, and hope, all one in Christ Jesus.
The time of prayer during Advent helps us to realize our need for Christ. Going it alone will not work. As humans we all yearn for the presence of Christ in our life. There is no redemption outside of Christ. And being faithful Christians, we should realize during this season of Advent the great need and hunger for salvation in Him and give thanks to God for that gift.
St. Paul gives a simple formula for Advent: rejoice, pray, and give thanks. All it will take is our time, energy, and dedication. I want to encourage all of us to enter this holy season with eager anticipation, for the greatest guest of all is knocking at the door of our heart. He is Christ, our Lord and Saviour.