December 5th 3rd Sunday of Advent (Gaudete, “Rejoice” Sunday) Dec 11th 2011
This third Sunday in Advent has been traditionally known in the Latin liturgy as Gaudete Sunday, from the opening word of the entrance antiphon Gaudete¸”Rejoice”, from the letter to the Philippians 4:4-7, a text given in full in the earlier Latin liturgy and still used in part in the present entrance antiphon, read in full as the Epistle reading in the older Latin liturgy, and still as reading two in year 3 of the present lectionary. The text of Philippians 4:4-7 is as follows: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.* 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)
First Reading (Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11). This reading takes just four verses from Isaiah chapter 61, and in the spirit of this “Rejoicing” Sunday uses them to stress the coming of the Messiah with the good news and the expression of joy because of this, by Zion (Jerusalem), or the Church the Bride of Christ. Before considering today’s brief reading it is good to consider the entire chapter of Isaiah 61. It is as follows (verses in bold type those of today’s liturgical reading):
The Good News of Deliverance
(verse 1) The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
5 Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks,
foreigners shall till your land and dress your vines;
6 but you shall be called priests of the Lord,
you shall be named ministers of our God;
you shall enjoy the wealth of the nations,
and in their riches you shall glory.
7 Because their [Hebrew text: “your”] shame was double,
and dishonour was proclaimed as their lot,
therefore they shall possess a double portion;
everlasting joy shall be theirs.
8 For I the Lord love justice,
I hate robbery and wrongdoing;*
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their descendants shall be known among the nations,
and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.
Contents of chapter. An anointed person (probably a prophet) announces his mission to bring goof news to marginalized groups, a day (year) of favour, a day of vengeance (vindication) for Zion (Jerusalem, God’s people) after the disasters suffered (by destruction at home, the exile (verses 1-3). There is a promise that they (the returned exiles?) will rebuild the ruins, aided by foreign (pagan) nations (4-5); they will be a priestly people (6), their fortunes reversed, in joy, with an everlasting covenant with God, and revered among the nations (7-9). . In verses 10-11 a speaker (probably still the prophet) rejoices (partly representing Zion) in this changed fortunes, when the Lord makes saving justice and praise to flourish in the sight of all nations.
Author and original setting of Isaiah chapter 61. It is generally accepted that chapters 60-62 are by the same author. They are part of “Third Isaiah” (Isa 56-66), a collection of poems, mainly from the post-exilic period (and Palestine), but dependent on Second Isaiah, this chapter 61 particularly so, sometimes regarded as the Fifth Servant Song. The immediate post-exilic period (539-450 BC or so) was one of which we know relatively little. It was one making for confusion in religion and lack of hope: Jerusalem in ruins, two forms of Jewish population –those left behind, never in exile, with older ways of thought and religious practice; the new arrivals from Babylon with a new vision, and plan for the future. In Isa 61 the porphet is not prsent a programme for social renewal, but rather a vision of the furture in the spirit of Second Isaiah, of what God would wish his people to be, and the joy arising from belief in the fulfilment of this. It was avision that would continue to inspire later generations.
Later influence of Isaiah chapter 61. Qumran (about 120 BC), in a text sometimes called “A Messianic Apocalyptic).
“[the hea]vens and the earth will listen to His Messiah, and none therein will stray from the commandments of the holy ones.
Seekers of the Lord, strengthen yourselves in His service!
All you hopeful in (your) heart, will you not find the Lord in this?
For the Lord will consider the pious (hasidim) and call the righteous by name.
Over the poor His spirit will hover and will renew the faithful with His power.
And He will glorify the pious on the throne of the eternal Kingdom.
He who liberates the captives, restores sight to the blind, straightens the b[ent]
And f[or] ever I will cleav[ve to the h]opeful and in His mercy . . .
And the fr[uit . . .] will not be delayed for anyone.
And the Lord will accomplish glorious things which have never been as [He . . .]
For He that is, the Lord] will heal the wounded, and revive the dead and bring good news to the poor” (Michael O. Wise, translation) (Sometimes called 4QMessianic Apocalypse; date Hasmonean period 140-116 BC)
Later influence of Isaiah chapter 61; Jews of John the Baptist’s day. See today’s Gospel reading.
Declared fulfilment of Isaiah chapter 61 by Jesus at Nazareth (Luke4:14-22). NRSV text.
After the account of the temptation of Jesus by Satan, Luke’s text continues to begin the narrayive of the public ministry of Jesus. While Matthew has Jesus begin in “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Mat 4:12-15), in fulfilment f the prophecy of Isaiah 9:1-2), Luke has Jesus begin his public ministry citing Isaiah 61:1-2):
14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth
16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ 22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.
B. The Bible in Dialogue with Questions of the Day
“Again I say Rejoice. The Lord is near”,
1. New Testament Message of Joy
Birth of Christ: Tiding of great joy for all the people
Beatitudes. Persecution. Blessed when persecuted. Be glad and rejoice.
John 3:29 John the Baptist’s joy was full that the promised redeemer had come
Luke 10:20-21. Jesus calls on his followers to rejoice; he himself rejoiced in the Holy Spirit
John 14:28 you would rejoice
John 15:11 Jesus prays that his own joy may be in his disciples and that their joy may be full
John 16:20 For Jesus’ followers, after trials, their sorrow will turn into joy
John 16:20 their hearts will rejoice
John 16:22 No one can take that joy from them
John 16:24 The disciples are asked to pray (to the Father) and they will receive that their joy may be full.
Luke 24:21 After the disciples met Jesus after the resurrection they still disbelieved for joy and (Luke 24:51) returned to Jerusalem with great joy.
2. Incarnation and Christian Joy in Earlier (Christian) Irish Literature
Early and constant Irish Christian literature expressed great joy at the good news of the incarnation, heaven joining with earth, and the human dignity deriving from this.
3.Modern Post-(Anti-) Christian World/Ireland: For déistean/disgust on Christian message
Modern Christians and post-Christians: Some remain believers, others lapse, without worry; a third group turn violently against Christian beliefs and symbols.
Quest for redemption, meaning for life etc., without Christianity
Giving new, post-Christian, meanings to Christian/Catholic symbols, for instance the Sanctuary Lamp.
As an example: Playwright Tom Murphy
From Internet, (Wikipedia) His work is characterised by a constant experimentation in The Morning After Optimism and the spectacularly verbal The Gigli Concert. Recurring themes include the search for redemption and hope in a world apparently deserted by God and filled with suffering. Although steeped in the culture and mythology of Ireland, Murphy’s work does not trade on familiar clichés of Irish identity, dealing instead with Dostoyevskian themes of violence, nihilism and despair while never losing sight of the presence of laughter, humour and the possibilities of love and transcendence.
Tom Murphy Play The Sanctuary Lamp Themes (from Internet, Wikipedia)
The Sanctuary Lamp explores major themes of redemption, love, guilt, spirituality and the existence – or non-existence – of God. Its portrait of the struggle of down-and-outs looking to find some kind of meaning to their lives is reminiscent of Maxim Gorki‘s The Lower Depths. In common with much of Murphy’s work the play deals with the battle against nihilism and finds a form of redemption and hope in mankind’s ability to show compassion, love and find an individual spirituality. The Lamp itself becomes an image of the light of the human soul unattached to dogma or religion.
Also in common with Murphy’s other plays it mixes realism with an elegiac lyricism, the stark reality of the characters’ suffering and destitution contrasting with the poetic aspiration of their souls. A twenty minute speech delivered by Harry alone to the Lamp where he thinks God resides is a particularly masterful example of this.
3. Pope Benedict’s address at St Peter’s Square, Rome, on Gaudete Sunday December 16 2007
ZENIT – On Gaudete Sunday Indexed Archive | Advanced Search | The World Seen
On Gaudete Sunday
“God Is Near as Friend and Faithful Husband”
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2007 (Sunday) (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“Gaudete in Domino semper – Rejoice in the Lord always (Phil 4: 4). Holy Mass of the Third Sunday of Advent opens with these words of St Paul and is therefore called “gaudete” Sunday. The Apostle urges Christians to rejoice because the Lord’s coming, that is, his glorious return, is certain and will not be delayed.
The Church makes this invitation her own while she prepares to celebrate Christmas and her gaze is focused ever more intently on Bethlehem. Indeed, we wait with hope, certain of Christ’s second coming because we have experienced his first. The mystery of Bethlehem reveals to us God-with-us, the God close to us and not merely in the spatial and temporal sense; he is close to us because he has, as it were, “espoused” our humanity; he has taken our condition upon himself, choosing to be like us in all things save sin in order to make us become like him. Christian joy thus springs from this certainty: God is close, he is with me, he is with us, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, as a friend and faithful spouse. And this joy endures, even in trials, in suffering itself. It does not remain only on the surface; it dwells in the depths of the person who entrusts himself to God and trusts in him.
Some people ask: but is this joy still possible today? Men and women of every age and social condition, happy to dedicate their existence to others, give us the answer with their lives! Was not Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta an unforgettable witness of true Gospel joy in our time? She lived in touch daily with wretchedness, human degradation and death. Her soul knew the trials of the dark night of faith, yet she gave everyone God’s smile. In one of her writings, we read: “We wait impatiently for paradise, where God is, but it is in our power to be in paradise even here on earth and from this moment. Being happy with God means loving like him, helping like him, giving like him, serving like him” (The Joy of Giving to Others, 1987, p. 143). Yes, joy enters the hearts of those who put themselves at the service of the lowly and poor. God abides in those who love like this and their souls rejoice. If, instead, people make an idol of happiness, they lose their way and it is truly hard for them to find the joy of which Jesus speaks. Unfortunately, this is what is proposed by cultures that replace God by individual happiness, mindsets that find their emblematic effect in seeking pleasure at all costs, in spreading drug use as an escape, a refuge in artificial paradises that later prove to be entirely deceptive.
Dear brothers and sisters, one can lose the way even at Christmas, one can exchange the true celebration for one that does not open the heart to Christ’s joy. May the Virgin Mary help all Christians and people in search of God to reach Bethlehem, to encounter the Child who was born for us, for salvation and for the happiness of all humanity.
After the Angelus:
I would like to greet the children and young people of Rome who have come here in large numbers this year in spite of the cold to receive the blessing of the Christ Child figurines for their cribs. Dear friends, with great affection I wish you and your relatives a good Christmas. And as I thank the Centro Oratori Romani which organizes this beautiful initiative, I urge priests, parents and catechists to collaborate enthusiastically in the Christian education of children. Thanks to you all and a good Sunday!
(c) Copyright 2007 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana