This Third Sunday of Advent is 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): “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.
The theme of rejoicing jumps out of the scriptures today. It is proclaimed by Isaiah: “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul”; the Blessed Virgin Mary: “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior”; Saint Paul: “Rejoice always.” We are in good company, if we feel joy today. The excitement of the approaching Christmas holidays inspires joy in us, as we look forward to being together with family and friends; but our deepest joy should be found in God. God is the One who never fails us, who never lets us down. Only faith—trust in God—gives us this assurance. In this world, so marred by sin, suffering and violence, God’s faithful people celebrate and proclaim the good news that sin is expiated (see last Sunday’s First Reading) and God has done good things for us (Mary’s Canticle). The image of the light of faith overcoming the world’s darkness is found in Malachi 3:20: “But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” In today’s Gospel John the Baptist testifies to the light, who is coming after him. This is Jesus, the Christ, whose birth we will soon be celebrating.
This is the Sunday on which the “pink” candle on the Advent wreath is lit and the violet vestments of Advent may be replaced with rose. 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. Remember to take time to celebrate this sacrament. The priests of the Chippewa Falls Deanery will be at St. Paul in Bloomer this Sunday, December 17, at 6:00 PM. Father Miller and I will each be hearing confessions on Saturday morning, December 23, from 10:30 AM until 12:00 noon. I will be at St. Peter and Father Miller will be at St. Charles.
As I have mentioned the past two weeks, we in the La Crosse Diocese will celebrate the 150th anniversary of our founding in 2018. This is called a “sesquicentennial.” A special anniversary book is now available for $33.00 per copy. It is a marvelous book that contains a history of the diocese and of all our bishops, and photographs and brief histories of all our parishes. The book is full of many inserts that also make it special. It is a coffee-table type book that will also make a great gift. You will be very impressed once you see it.
Continue to pray the rosary this week for peace and for the needs of our nation. Pray also for those 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.