The third Sunday of Advent is the Gaudete Sunday. This is also known as "Rejoice" Sunday. Despite our self-praised progress, real joy is missing from modern life. In such a "desert" we must look to Christ. Only He can "bring light to the darkness of our minds". Only He can bless, deliver and forgive. Only He can "say to the faint-hearted, 'Take courage’.
The third candle is lit on this day along with the first two. It is the Shepherds' candle, reminding that God sent the angels to proclaim His arrival to the common man and that He still uses ordinary people today to spread the good news of Christ.
As Christmas draws near, the Church emphasizes the joy which should be in our hearts over all that the birth of our Savior means for us. The great joy of Christians is to see the day drawing nearly here when the Lord will come again in His glory to lead them into His kingdom.
The theme of readings and teachings during Advent is to prepare for the Second Coming while commemorating the First Coming of Christ at Christmas. With the view of directing, the thoughts of Christians to the first coming of Jesus Christ as savior and to his second coming as judge.
The reading from Isaiah continues the proclamation of the good days. The time is approaching when the blind will see and the ears of the deaf are opened.
Gospel Reading continues with the reflection on the person and message of John the Baptist. Last week John spoke about his relationship to the coming Messiah, Jesus. This week, we hear Jesus' message to John the Baptist, now in prison, about the signs of the kingdom found in Jesus' ministry and Jesus' assessment of John's role in the Kingdom of God.
The story of John's arrest in chapter 14:3-12: John sends word to Jesus from prison, asking if Jesus is the Messiah for whom he has been waiting. Jesus responds by pointing to the miracles that he has worked and invites John and the other hearers to make their own determination. However, Jesus praises John for his role in preparing the way for Jesus. Then Jesus says that all of those who work for the Kingdom of God will be as great as John and even greater.
Jesus' message to John about the signs of the kingdom being performed recalls the salvation described by the prophet Isaiah. This passage is a reminder that the beginning of salvation is already mysteriously present to us, but also yet to be fulfilled. Salvation is already in our midst as manifest in the miraculous deeds of Jesus and in the Church. But salvation is also to be fulfilled in the coming reign of God. Even as we observe our world today, we can find glimpses of God's work among us. Even more, we help to prepare the way for God's kingdom by our words and our deeds. This message is indeed a cause for rejoicing.
Can we still fail to see why Prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist compare the hardships of the way of the world's Messiah-King to souls with a rough, crooked, and almost impassable road up steep hills and down precipitous valleys and through dangerous mountain passes?
Do we wonder that these prophets of His coming that insist so strongly that merely sentimental longings and routine prayers, however, multiplied, cannot prepare us worthily for the entrance He must expect and the welcome He craves?
Therefore we pray that we may begin to see the practical reasons for the Church's crying out in the desert world, and even into your own interior soul and heart: "Prepare the way of the Lord: Make straight in the wilderness His paths; Every valley shall be exalted; Every mountain and hill shall be made low; the crooked shall be made straight; And the rough ways plain" (Is. 40:3, 4). Then shall you see the salvation of God!