Third Sunday of Advent – December 17, 2017
This is Gaudete Sunday, which means in one word: Rejoice! I think as we delve a little into the readings we will see how apropos this title is for describing the Third Sunday of Advent! The first reading from Isaiah opens with this announcement: ‘The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me’. It follows with a kind of delineation of what this anointing of the Spirit means. And all of this is pointing to the Coming One: Christ. The second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians gives an orientation for our lives in the context of the One who is coming: first, ‘rejoice always…pray without ceasing…in all things give thanks’: doing this the reading tells us is the will of God in Christ. Then comes the warning: ‘Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything: retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil’. Now if we are to heed the voice of John the Baptist who is crying out in the wilderness, again on this third Sunday of Advent, we have in concrete terms what we are to both heed and do!
‘Do not quench the Spirit’: as I have already said in an earlier chapter talk the Spirit is hovering over our lives, ready to birth forth the NEW of God in our lives. Do we even notice the Spirit hovering? ‘Rejoice’, ‘pray’, ‘give thanks’: what if these three realities were our default? What if even one of them each day was our default? It feels to me that if we anchor our lives around praying, giving thanks, rejoicing we have found the medicine that keeps us open to receive this Divine birth and to live from this newness that the Coming One longs to grace us with.
Another way of helping us receive God’s gift is to ponder: How do I quench the Spirit? I encourage each one of us to give time this week to note down some ways I do this, for just doing this little task (this inner work) will open us more and keep us more attentive to the new gesture of God hovering in and around our hearts. The next phrase is even stronger: ‘Do not despise prophetic utterances’. There is one prophetic utterance, which tells us what Advent is all about: God is coming…in spite of our selves…in spite of our fears, our doubts, our hopelessness, our negativity. Are we ready and willing to pray the grace to believe…to live into this reality that our God is coming?
A final comment on the Thessalonians reading: ‘Test everything: retain what is good. Refrain from what is evil’. The heart is complex…it is the receptacle for this new birth…still it has the potential to not serve the good. ‘Test everything…’: this is not about being over scrupulous; it simply means to reflect upon our intentions as they come up, to sort through those different voices that pull us one way or another: am I doing this act out of jealousy, out of hurt, out of rebellion because no one cares? We could all add on different scenarios that come up in our human relationships. And still the Spirit hovers over our lives. God will not disappoint. We rejoice because this is the season of God’s immense gift to us and to our world; we pray, even more, so as to be open to receive and to be bearers of this gift; we give thanks because we are humbled, as we already ‘know’, we already feel these stirrings of life, of the Coming One, who will take root even more in the ‘hodie’ of our lives. Amen.