OPTION 2: There was a story about a woman who married four times: first, to a millionaire, then to an actor, next to a pastor and finally to an undertaker. What was her reason? One was for the money (the millionaire), two was for the show (the actor), three was to get ready (the pastor) and four was to go (the undertaker)!
Today is the Third Sunday of Advent and we are at the mid-point of the Advent season when we have been anxiously ready and awaiting the coming, not of the money or the show, but of our Savior which is not only as an anniversary of His birth but also when He comes again in His glory. I hope all of us have spent the past two weeks in preparation for His coming.
We call the Third Sunday of Advent as Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday. It is because Gaudate is the Latin word for Rejoice. We should rejoice because Christ tells John’s disciples what they see. The disciples see the Messiah, His love, His self-giving and forgiveness. He tells them: “The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the Good News is proclaimed to the poor and happy are those who believe.”
As you notice, the Advent wreath is surrounded by three purple candles and one rose-colored or pink candle. We light today this pink candle because it represents Gaudete Sunday. Its color contrasts with the three purple candles. There was a time in the world when the color of something would tell you what was going on. Like for example: Violet or royal purple was the color for royalty; Red was for victory and so when armies of old were victorious in battle, they would return home triumphantly wearing red; Pink was a joyous color. We use this joyous color of pink today on our Advent wreath to show our joy and rejoicing that this season of waiting for our Lord is half over. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel when we will celebrate the great Feast of the Birth of our Savior.
Since pink is the color of joy, I am going to share with you a way to bring true joy into our lives. All we have to do is spell the word joy as J.O.Y. What each letter stands for and the order of the letters? ‘J’ stands for ‘Jesus’ and just as ‘J’ is the first letter of JOY, so Jesus should always be the first in our lives. ‘O’ stands for ‘Others’ and just as ‘O’ is the second letter of JOY, we should always think of others as the second in our lives. The ‘Y’ stands for ‘You’ and just as ‘Y’ is the last letter of JOY, we should always think of ourselves as the last. If you can still remember the motto of one of American greatest baseball player and coach, ‘I am Third.” The explanation was, God is first, others are second and I am third. Therefore, to bring true JOY into our lives, always think of Jesus first, others second and yourself last.
In today’s gospel, Jesus praises John the Baptist and has the chance to tell us how important John the Baptist is and how important we are to Him. He mentions that there is ‘none greater than John the Baptist’. Yet he also tells us that the ‘least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than him’. Jesus is telling us that it is a great privilege to be in the kingdom of heaven. And therefore we are lucky that He came to save us so that we can get our share in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus mentions that John doesn’t wear fine clothing or live in royal palaces and yet he is considered by Jesus to be more than a prophet. But why Jesus praises John? It is because:
First, St. John was undeniably holy. That’s why Jesus praises him today: “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matt. 11:11). But sad to say many of us consider the Birth of our Lord or the coming Christmas celebration is just expenses, shopping, parties, vacation and happy holidays. Last December 15, 2007 I watched One versus One Hundred of ABS-CBN, Edu Manzano, the host, asked one of the One Hundred participants on what she is going to do on Christmas. She answered: “Shopping!” We forgot the original and real meaning of Christmas and that is, recalling the greatest gift ever given to us, the birth of the Son of God and in giving thanks for this gift. That is why it is well for us to pause as we frantically prepare for the holiday and spend some time in thanking God for the many blessings we have received. His gifts are not tied with ribbon and they cannot be purchased with credit cards or money. As a matter of fact the price He paid is much too high to be considered in terms of Philippine peso.
Christmas is a holiday, a non-working one. But many of us forgot also the original meaning of holiday which is holyday. Let us make it sure that Christmas holiday is holy by reaching out to God through our prayers, attending Masses and by sharing what we have with others especially the poor and the needy. Let us celebrate Christmas with Christ. Remember, if we remove CHRIST from CHRISTMAS, what remains is MAS which means Many Are Sad, Magulo Ang Sanlibutan, Malabo Ang Samahan (from Fr. Jerry Orbos, SVD).
Second, Our Lord admires one of his qualities, certainly his humility. Do you remember when people kept asking him if he was the Messiah? He was not flattered by these remarks. Thoughts of power and prestige did not fill his head. Instead, this very humble man said, “After me, One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals” (Mk 1:7). Have you ever made a comment like that about someone else?
Third, the Baptist lived a disciplined life. He didn’t let himself be swayed by earthly values or material things. A king, a Pharisee, a soldier… why, they are just flesh-and-blood men as he is, subject to the same God and held to the same standards and commandments. As Jesus tells us, St. John was not luxuriously dressed and he did not give a hoot about fancy food. He chose to have a single focus: Almighty God. It is sad to know that there are some people whose focus is not on the Almighty God but mostly they literally spend their time to have money and more money. Money is their gods and everything else including relationships is just secondary and convenience or just for a show.
Let us spend the remainder of this Advent season preparing ‘our way’ before the Lord comes this Christmas. Remembering always to keep Jesus first in our lives, others second, and ourselves last. Therefore, like John the Baptist, we to can be messengers sent by God to prepare others for the coming of the Lord by becoming holy, humble and by disciplining ourselves.
See Today’s Readings: Cycle A
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