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Third Sunday in Advent, Dec. 11, 2011 (3AdvB)
By Fr. John J. Ludvik
The third Sunday of Advent is often called "Gaudate" which means, "rejoice". We count it as the mid-point of this season of anticipation. You noticed that the candle we light today is pink not purple and my stole and other parts of our environment are rose suggesting a more rejoicing attitude.
At this midpoint we relax our sense of wanting, to see that the long awaited one is almost with us. That longing for the fulfillment of a promise. That special time of preparation and waiting is almost over. Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be the greatest singer in the world, or the greatest athlete in the world? Have you ever thought about what it would be like hear the cheers of people as they watched you perform?
I heard a story about a little boy who walked out into the backyard wearing his baseball cap and carrying a ball and bat. "I'm the greatest hitter in the world," he said. Then he tossed the ball into the air, swung at it, and missed. "Strike One!" he yelled.
He picked up the ball and said again, "I'm the greatest hitter in the world!" Again, he tossed the ball into the air, and again he swung at it and missed. "Strike Two!" he cried.
The boy looked at his bat and ball, straightened his cap and said again, "I'm the greatest hitter in the world!" A third time he tossed the ball up in the air and swung at it. He missed again. "Strike Three!"
The little boy picked up the ball, looked at it, and cried out in a loud voice, "I'm the greatest pitcher in the world!"
I guess all of us at some time have dreamed of being the greatest. This morning I want to tell you about a man who had no desire to be thought of being the greatest. In fact, he wanted to make sure that everyone knew that he was NOT the greatest. The man's name was John the Baptist.
John the Baptizer was very popular in his day and people would travel for miles to see John and to hear him speak. He was so popular that many people began to think that he might be the Savior that had been promised – or that he must at least be Elijah or one of the great prophets who had come back from the dead.
John assured people that he was not the Christ, or even one of the great prophets. He told them that he was just a man who had come to tell them about one who was coming who truly was the greatest. "The one who is coming -- why, I'm not even worthy to unbuckle his sandals," John said. Of course, the one he was talking about was Jesus.
Most of us will probably never be known as "the greatest anything," but we can, like John the Baptist, tell others about the One who is The Greatest. We can tell them about Jesus. I can't think of anything that we could do that would be greater than that!
Today we are inspired by Isaiah, Paul and John and we’re invited this Advent as believers to discover or rediscover joy and peace that lives within. There is a joy that lives deep within us and enables us as believers to hope when things are painful and we all know struggles. That joy can endure even the terrorist attack, or when ministers of God sin, and when large companies lie and cheat, or whenever one of us is not true to ourselves or to God.
That joy can remain and be renewed because that JOY is God in us. God is the JOY of our souls as Isaiah proclaims. In Paul he exhorts us to make rejoicing a habit, and John doesn’t speak specifically of JOY but is keenly aware that sin and joy do not coexist in the human heart. That is why John preached repentance and deferred to Christ the Light of the Messiah. WE too are called not to squander our lives, our efforts and energy, but to look deeply in ourselves these days of Advent and discover and rediscover the JOY God has placed in us. Those who know Christ have found the source of JOY. Advent is a time of JOY, of waiting, of being in process rediscovering the JOY within.
Alice in the wonderland experience
When Alice fell through the rabbit-hole into Wonderland, she was convinced that she had fallen right through the earth and was destined to come out where people would be upside down. She referred to such reversals as Antipathies—though she did wonder whether or not that was the right word.
Alice may not have chosen the correct word, but she was on target when it came to identifying the way we feel when our world is turned upside down. That is, of course, when the reversal that we experience resembles the collapse of the stock market. We would be overcome by entirely different emotions if we had won the lottery.
When she finally landed, Alice discovered that the world was not upside down, but it certainly was out of proportion to her size. She had to change, to get smaller in order to enter that mysterious world.
The Third Sunday of Advent invites us into a world of reversals, a world where the captives are freed, where the hungry are filled and where the rich are sent away empty. It is certainly a world where things are turned upside down. From the point of view of social order, such reversals could be considered Antipathies. But from God’s point of view, they are the signs of transformation. In order to appreciate the strength of today’s message from Isaiah, we must remember that he was speaking to people who were dispossessed, people in need of a message of hope, a promise of some kind of economic reversal.
This same description of reversal is found in the passage from Luke. There we see that the lowly enjoy the blessings that God promised long ago.