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The Third Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as “Gaudete Sunday.”  This name comes from the first word in Latin of the Introit (Entrance) Antiphon from today’s Mass, which comes from Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippians (4:4-5), verses from today’s Second Reading:  “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!  The Lord is near.”  This Sunday comes as a reminder that the Advent season is more than half over and the Christmas feast, for which we are preparing, will soon be upon us.  This is cause for rejoicing.

When Saint Paul wrote these verses, however, there was as yet no Advent season.  His call to “rejoice in the Lord always” was to characterize the everyday life of Christians.  The Lord is always near.  In fact he is close to us because we are the members of his body.  He is immediately accessible to us whenever we turn to him in prayer, whenever we search the scriptures, whenever we receive the sacraments.  While Christmas and its preparations bring joy to the hearts of those who look forward to the fun with family and friends that Christmas brings, we should live each day joyfully, “as we look forward to [the Lord’s] secondcoming.” (Eucharistic Prayer III)

Today’s First Reading and Responsorial Psalm also proclaim to us that the Lord is in our midst.  John the Baptist, in today’s Gospel, continues his mission to prepare the way of the Lord by challenging people to live good, moral lives and to share what they have with others.  His preaching filled the people with expectation and even the suspicion that John might be the Messiah.  He directed that expectation to one mightier than he:  to Jesus, who was soon to appear on the scene.  The Church directs our joyful expectation to him, also, as she calls us to live good, moral lives and to share what we have with others.  Yes, Jesus really is the reason for the season.  May that focus not be obscured as we continue our journey toward Christmas.

The Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, is the Sunday on which the “pink” candle on the Advent wreath is lit.  This is the Sunday on which the violet vestments of Advent may be replaced with rose.  People often ask why, so I will give an explanation.  Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, the light of the world.  One of the “O Antiphons” used during this week’s vespers addresses him with the words, O Oriens (O Rising Sun).  The liturgical color of Advent is meant to reflect the violet color of the morning sky before the dawn.  Just before the sun rises over the horizon, the purple sky often fades to a rose color before it turns to the blue of day.  It is the sign that the sun is almost here to dispel the darkness of night.  Likewise the rose liturgical color of this Sunday reminds us that Christ our light is coming to dispel the darkness of sin.

The sacrament of penance is an important part of our Advent preparation for a worthy celebration of Christmas.  There will be additional opportunities for confession as Christmas approaches.  The priests of the Chippewa Falls Deanery will be making the rounds of the various parishes this week to increase the availability of this sacrament as well.  Our penance service will be at St. Charles Church next Sunday afternoon, December 23, at 4:00.

I have purchased a subscription to FORMED for our parishes.  It is an online resource of Catholic information and entertainment.  An article later in the bulletin tells how to access it and register.  There is no cost for you to use it.  Sign up today and see whats there!

Continue to pray the rosary this week for people who may have abandoned the practice of the faith, that they may respond to God’s grace, come to the sacrament of penance and return to the regular celebration of the Eucharist.

May God bless his people with peace.

Monsignor Gorman