SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
3rd Sunday of Advent (Cycle B) – December 17, 2017
This Sunday’s Theme: My Spirit Finds Joy in God My Savior
On this Gaudete (“Let us rejoice”) Sunday, the rose candle on our Advent wreath is lit. There is a clear theme of joy in Reading 1 and 2 and in the Responsorial Psalm. In the Gospel, John the Apostle wants his readers to be very clear that John the Baptist is not the Messiah, but the one preparing people to receive the Messiah. Our Priests are like John the Baptist in that they also prepare us to receive the Messiah. We should always pray for our Priests.
“Christmas is joy, religious joy, an inner joy of light and peace.” (Pope Francis)
“Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought
into the happiness that you are able to give.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)
Reading 1 – Isaiah 61:1-2a,10-11 The Lord’s salvation will be made known to the poor and the oppressed.
Responsorial Psalm – Luke 1:46-50,53-54 Mary sings praise to God.
Reading 2 – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 Paul encourages the Thessalonians to rejoice and pray always.
Gospel – John 1:6-8,19-28 John gives testimony that he is preaching and baptizing in order to prepare for the coming of another.
Reading 1 Isaiah 61:1-2a,10-11 (God’s Glad Tidings)
Context – The keynote of the Book of Isaiah is salvation (Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves”). He was the prophet of the southern kingdom, Judah, and lived at the time (ie. 742 – 687 BC) when the northern kingdom, Israel, whose capital was Jerusalem, was destroyed. At this time all that was left of the old kingdom of David was Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites. He prophesized for 64 years. He prophesized doom for a sinful Judah and Israel and for all the nations of the world that oppose God. Then, he prophesized God’s restoration of the nation of Israel, including Judah, and this is interpreted by Christians as prefiguring the coming of Christ. After the Psalms, Isaiah is the Old Testament book most quoted in the New Testament.
Today’s Reading – Isaiah points to the joy he feels because he has been commissioned by God to announce the wonderful rewards which await the faithful.
The prophet Isaiah speaks of his commission as a servant of the Lord. God has anointed him with his Spirit so that he may accomplish his mission to the needy. In this case, the needy are the broken-hearted exiles who have just returned to a land that requires much reconstruction. The “I” in “I rejoice heartily” seems to be a reference to Jerusalem, who is full of joy that God has come to forgive her sins and to restore her to righteousness. The prophet uses spousal imagery to describe Israel’s covenantal relationship with God (“…like a bride bedecked with her jewels”).
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me (For NT people, “Me” is Jesus.) because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God. (Jesus read this passage in Nazareth in His boyhood synagogue and claimed that He fulfilled it. He meant that He was the Anointed One of whom Isaiah spoke and that He had come to bring salvation. The day of salvation had begun. Note – Salvation includes deliverance from the power of sin as well as deliverance from the penalty of sin.)
I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; for He has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels. As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.
Responsorial Psalm. Luke 1:46-50,53-54 (God’s Mighty Works)
Today’s Psalm – The psalm is taken from Mary’s Magnificat. Mary’s joy at God’s goodness to her echoes the joy of Jerusalem and points to the joy of all who will open their hearts to Christ.
R. – My soul rejoices in my God.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked upon His lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed:
R. – My soul rejoices in my God.
the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name. He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation.
R. – My soul rejoices in my God.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has come to the help of His servant Israel for He has remembered His promise of mercy.
R. – My soul rejoices in my God.
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. Magnificat – The first few words in Latin are, “Magnificat anima mea Dominum . . .” so that is why these words of Mary are referred to as the Magnificat. This canticle is noteworthy because it is a beautiful example of praise and thanksgiving to God for all that He has done for His people and for those in need. We tend to only pray to God in our down times. We could all learn a lesson from Mary here and redouble our efforts to pray to the Lord in good times as well as in bad.
Reading 2. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (Christian Joy)
Context – The church at Thessalonica was a very young church. Paul’s two letters focus upon confirming young converts in the elementary truth of the gospel, conditioning them to go on unto holy living, and comforting them regarding the return of Christ.
Today’s Reading – This reading underlines the importance of a Christian’s moral principles and behaviors as the proper disposition while awaiting the Lord’s coming.
Brothers and sisters: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing (continue praying frequently). In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit (follow the Holy Spirit’s direction and control without resistance). Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything (insure, what appear to be spiritual utterances, that they conform to accepted divine revelations from the Holy Spirit); retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.
May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit (relation to God), soul (principles of life), and body (material frame), be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful, and He will also accomplish it.
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. The body is physical and with the five senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch) it connects and interacts with the outer world. The soul and spirit are much more difficult to separate from each other. Many Christians hold to the opinion that the soul is the part of us that covers our will, affections and thoughts. The soul is the part of us that connects with our fellow human beings. The spirit is the part that connects to God and covers matters like faith, trust, worship and so on. The spirit is seen as the innermost part of our being. It is enveloped by our soul, which in turn is enveloped by our body. (From Biblword.net)
Gospel John 1:6-8,19-28 (Witness to Christ)
Context – John’s Gospel was written around 90 AD. His Gospel has an evangelistic purpose – preaching about Christ for conversion to Him. John explains the mystery of the person of Jesus – His eternal origin, divine and human nature. He is eternally present with God. So much of this Gospel is devoted to the heavenly identity and mission of Jesus that John was known as the “spiritual” Gospel in the ancient Church. The “divine family” of God revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the towering mystery of the Fourth Gospel.
Today’s Reading – John the Baptist’s ultimate purpose was eliciting belief in Jesus. That was also John the Evangelist’s purpose in writing this book
A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the Light (John the Baptist bore witness to the Light, namely, Jesus.), so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but came to testify to the Light.
And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, “Who are you?” He admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, “I am not the Christ.” So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?” He said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord,'” as Isaiah the prophet said.” Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is One among you whom you do not recognize (Jesus was always, by His divine presence, amongst them; or in regard to His humanity, either that He lived in the same country and among their countrymen, or that He stood actually amongst them since Jesus was accustomed to going up to Jerusalem, annually, for the Jewish festivals.), the One who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. John the Baptist announces that the Savior they seek is already among them, but as yet unrecognized. John’s response highlights for us an important Advent theme: Jesus, in His humanity state, has already come into the world as our Savior. During Advent, we pray that we will be able to recognize Jesus, in His divinity state, presence in our midst. Advent also reminds us that Jesus will come again to fulfill the promise of salvation. We pray that we will continue to be watchful as we anticipate that great day.
Catechism 523 – St. John the Baptist is the Lord’s immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare His way. “Prophet of the Most High”, John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last. He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother’s womb welcomes the coming of Christ (at the Visitation of the Blessed Mother Mary with Elizabeth, John’s mother), and rejoices in being “the friend of the Bridegroom”, whom he points out as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”. Going before Jesus “in the spirit and power of Elijah”, John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom.