Third Sunday of Advent (B)
On this 3rd Sunday of Advent, St. Paul, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, has beautiful statements for us:
1. “Rejoice always” (1Thes 5:16). People who celebrate Christmas in the Spirit of the Incarnation of God cannot but rejoice because the time of peace and reconciliation has come, and the promise of salvation is fulfilled. People of the Resurrection cannot but rejoice because Jesus has risen from the dead and death is overcome. He buried all the sins of men and brought light to the world’s darkness due to sin. Human endeavors have gained new meaning and direction, and all men will rise with Him at the end of time. People who celebrate Pentecost cannot but rejoice because the Holy Spirit links again God’s Spirit with man’s spirit, and man’s spirit with his neighbor’s, so that man can be one with God again.
One miserable situation is that man is so addicted to what he does and is so content with what he has that he cannot rejoice in what others do, in what others have and in what others are. He does what he wills at the expense of others, hoping to be happy. So he remains in his favorite sins, also goes to church, meets other people and says he is happy. How can a person in his sinful ways rejoice in the Lord? And how can a person in his evil ways expect the help of the Lord?
2. “Pray without ceasing” (1Thes 5:17). God wants us to be one with Him at all times. To be connected with Him is an opportunity to pray always, in whatever we do, in whatever situation we are. One miserable situation is that man today is so addicted to television and other electronic gadgets that he consumes his time in them, and makes other times suffer, especially the time for prayer and other interactive activities with his family and his community.
Many of the things that the world has to offer lead to insufficiency and emptiness. When we pray we become a people of hope. Every family is a little church. If the family doesn’t pray, it will always feel the insufficiency and emptiness of the world. “The family that prays together stays together,” and stays together in hope. Our Church is of divine origin. That is why we pray as an assembly, so that we will have life, a life of hope. The liturgies of the Catholic Church, especially the Liturgy of the Eucharist, are the heart of the Church. If we do not pray as a Church, nor celebrate the Eucharist, nor the Sacraments, we will remain just a temporal institution, and will not last. We pray, so we have hope.
3. “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1Thes 5:18). Thankfulness is the joyful appreciation of a good thing or good act received. Man has received everything. There is nothing that man has not received. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul says: What do you possess that you have not received? But if you have received it, why are you boasting as if you did not receive it? (1 Cor 4:7).
Gratitude makes us other-centered, and psychologically sound. To be grateful is to be socially and emotionally healthy persons. Gratitude improves our relationship with others and with God. We gain strength from our own gratitude and from the gratitude of others. If we see everything as gift, we will always have something to be grateful for. Thus, our relationships will have more energy and liveliness.
John the Baptist is a great example of a grateful person. He did not claim what others thought he was. He just said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord” (Jn 1:23)…. the One who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie” (Jn 1: 27). John, the voice, gave way to the Word, the Savior of the world. John was happy and grateful to be a mere instrument to prepare the way of the Lord.
As we receive the Eucharist, let us promise to be grateful instruments of God to point Jesus to others. Let this Advent season, then, urge us to rejoice always, to pray without ceasing and in all circumstances to give thanks to God for our hope in His Word.