Rejoice and Respond

Reflection on the Third Sunday of Advent (December 11)

Gaudete Sunday

By Rose Marie Hogan

The readings for this Sunday:

Isaiah 61:1-2a,10-11
Luke 1:46-50, 53-54
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

The full text of the readings can be found here.

The readings in today's scripture appear rather straightforward in telling us how to conduct our lives. Isaiah exhorts us to bring good news to the humble, to bind up broken hearts, to proclaim liberty to captives and release those in prison. While reading these words one can quite easily recall the haunting images of the stranded poor on New Orleans rooftops, the faces of broken hearted families attending Iraq causality funerals and the horrendous images of Abu Grab prison.

It is of special interest to remember that this very passage from Isaiah is the one which Jesus read in the synagogue (according to the Gospel of Luke) to begin his public ministry. In this message Isaiah presages the beautiful Sermon On The Mount, one of the most oft quoted scriptures in the New Testament. Reflecting on these instructions from both Isaiah and Jesus a particular constancy in the conditions of human existence is found which extends into the present. That constancy, of course, is poverty, suffering, and injustice. The constant nature of suffering was brought home rather startlingly for me last month during a program honoring the four churchwomen murdered 25 years ago in El Salvador. Fr. Paul Schindler, the Cleveland priest who spent years as a missionary in El Salvador, gave a slide presentation with his talk. A member of the audience asked Fr. Schindler, "Are these recent photos or from 25 years ago?" Fr. Schindler answered, "They are from 25 years ago but it doesn't matter if you go back to El Salvador today you will see the same conditions." Imagine after all that tireless work, immense suffering, and loss of life by so many, the conditions are still the same!

How easily one can become discouraged! How easy to give up! Yet the works of mercy and justice go on. Why do we not give up? I would suggest we look at how Isaiah begins this chapter. He tells us, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he has anointed me." The lesson learned by so many has been to see the consistent message which God speaks through Isaiah and Jesus ... "bring glad tidings to the poor, heal the brokenhearted proclaim liberty to the captives" etc.

On this Gaudete Sunday let us rejoice that we too have been anointed and the Spirit of God has descended upon us through baptism and confirmation. Most importantly through the words of both Isaiah and Jesus we have been given very clear directions on what to do when we become discouraged or feel overwhelmed with the immensity of suffering in this world.

Isaiah concludes today's chapter saying, "so will the Lord God make justice and praise spring up before all the Nations." No matter how long it might take, our task is to consistently allow God to work through us to assure that one day indeed "justice and praise may spring up before all nations.”