This 3rd Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as Gaudete Sunday – The Latin word ‘Gaudete’ means rejoice! On the Advent wreath the pink candle is lit – there is an air of expectancy that the Lord’s coming is near.

The entrance antiphon for the Mass of this Sunday invites us:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.

1st Reading – Zephaniah 3:14-18
Responsorial Psalm: Isaias 12:2-6
2nd Reading Philippians 4:4-7
Gospel: Luke10-18

Each week we, as a community share our reflections on the Sunday Mass Readings – having spent the whole week prayerfully reflecting on them during lectio divina – here we share two reflections from this evening:

Reflection 1

Last week John the Baptist had “proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” – This week we meet John again in the Gospel. Today there is a feeling of expectancy in the air as the people approach John and ask what they must do? nobody is excluded – all are invited to repent and to show their repentance by their lives i.e. share with the needy, act justly, no imtimidation, be content with our lot etc.

John points beyond himself to Jesus who is coming with His “winnowing-fan in his hand to clear his treshing-floor”. When reflecting on these lines of the Gospel I was led to see my own heart as the ‘threshing-floor’ and the ‘winnowing-fan’ as the loving breath of the Holy Spirit. God stands at the door of my heart during these last days of Advent and waits for my reponse as He waited for Mary of Nazareth’s reponse for His Word to take flesh in her womb. Mary’s reponse was a whole-hearted ‘Yes’ – “Let it be done to me according to your word” and “the Word became flesh and He lived amng us”

In my reading during the past week I came across the following lovely quote from Caryll Houselander’s The Reed of God

For what is conversion but the fiat of Our Lady echoed again and the conecption of Christ in yet another heart?

May this Advent be a time of true conversion for all of us.

Reflection 2

The words that were given to me from the first day of my lectio were ‘Be content’. I could not make much of these words at all, especially in the present climate of the Child Sexual Abuse Scandal in the Church. What was there to be content about? In the other Readings what was there to rejoice about?

There is most certainly nothing in our human behaviour to rejoice about but everything in ‘God’s Behaviour’ to rejoice over and so, after the whole week of struggling with the meaning of these words for me, I was led to focus on the Lord – on His Presence in the Readings, His nearness to us in our repentance and misery. This is a time of repentance not only because of the sins of others but because of our own sins too – for none of us can judge another, and all of us are implicated in these sins in one way or another – for are we not all part of the One Body Of Christ? Yet it says: ‘The Lord has repealed your sentence.’ God’s forgiveness is there for all of us, no matter what we have done – this is the only reason for rejoicing.

The passage at the end of the first Reading gives us a beautiful description of God’s Joy – a bit incredible that He could rejoice over us frail creatures. It is worth quoting:

The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior.
He will exult with joy over you,
He will renew you by his love;
He will dance with shouts of joy for you as on a day of festival.
( Zeph 3;16-18)

Personally I need the grace of the Holy Spirit to believe this and accept this truth of God’s personal love for me! May God help my lack of faith.

I am much more comfortable praying the lines in the Psalm :

Truly God is my salvation
He became my saviour

And I am also more comfortable praying the beautiful opening prayers – both of them but especially the second one, as it says:

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
ever faithful to your promises
and ever close to your Church: ( even amid the scandals)
the earth rejoices in hope of the Saviour’s coming and looks forward
with longing to his return at the end of time.
Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness
that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope
which His presence will bestow,
for he is Lord for ever and ever. Amen

So I now see in these words: ‘Be content’ to mean for me – that I am to be content to continue to pray as is my vocation and as the 2nd Reading encourages us to do. I realise just that if one is really content to pray then one is not anxious or worried, as St. Paul says;

There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus. ( Phil 4: 5-7)

The needs of the Church and of the world are great and are our responsibility as nuns of the Order of Preachers. May we all, accept this word from God and ‘be content to continue to pray’. Perhaps that is what John the Baptist would say to us were we to ask him:
What must we do?’ !