Sunday, 14 December 2008

3rd Sunday of Advent, Year B, Shaftesbury

Isa 61:1-2.10-11; 1Thess 5:16-24; Jn 1:6-8.19-28

Every December I get to the stage where I am now. It’s already half-way through Advent, but I haven’t got half the presents I need to get, I haven’t sent half the cards I need to send. This year I haven’t got any presents and I haven’t sent any cards. And like every year, a panic starts to set in, and I wonder if I’ll manage to achieve it before the big day!

In the midst of that panic, every year, the Church sends us this Sunday called Gaudete Sunday, a name that means rejoice, a name derived from the ancient entrance antiphon, “Rejoice in the Lord, and again I say rejoice”.
The cynic in me says, “Why should I rejoice?” I’ve had a hard day, I’m tired, and I don’t need someone with a smiling face telling me that I should be happy.
But I also know that there is a reason why centuries of tradition have focused this 3rd Sunday of Advent on the need to rejoice.

As we in the Church wait for the Lord’s coming in glory, and we’ve been waiting for 2000 years now, we can get just a little bit tired. We can forget that even though the Lord is not with us yet in glory, he is with us. Not in glory, but he is with us. John the Baptist had to tell the people that, “There stands among you –unknown to you- the one who is coming”. And it is the same today, even though we can so easily forget it.

As we plough through the crowds in Somerfield for our turkey and Christmas cake, as we wait in the post office queue for the stamps for our Christmas cards, as we buy the fancy chocolates from Tescos, the Lord is with us.
We may have forgotten who it is that gives us the strength to face another day, we may have forgotten who it is that gives us the grace to experience every little joy and happiness that comes our way. But the Lord has not forgotten. He is here with us every moment our lives. He sends our guardian angel to watch over us, he accepts the prayers of the saints on our behalf. He himself is the one who sustains us.

Here in this Mass we are given the clearest expression of Our Lord’s abiding presence -because he comes to us in Holy Communion. Very soon the bread and the wine will be changed so that they are no longer bread and wine but are The Lord Jesus Christ himself, fully present for us, body and blood, soul and divinity. And even now, at this very moment he is present in our tabernacle, present “in his physical reality”(Paul VI)–and how easily we forget!

His presence for us in the Eucharist is not an isolated event in our lives. His perfect and unsurpassed presence here is only a sign to us of the fact that he is continually present to us in many other ways in our lives. If only we would see him –if only, as the call of John the Baptist says, we would recognise the one who is among us but unknown to us.

As we continue to prepare for Christmas, as we continue to wait for his coming in glory, let us remember that he is already here with us. And let us rejoice.

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