WHEN John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John of what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”
As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces. Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: Behold, I am sending a messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.
“Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
Today is Gaudete Sunday! As we light the rose-colored candle at the Advent wreath, we anticipate with great joy the Lord’s coming “for he is near” (Phil 4:5). The theme of joy pervades today’s liturgy as we faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity. Gaudete Sunday also prepares us for the Lord’s coming which brings about fullness of joy. But in this world filled with violence and hatred, how can we sing and dance with gladness? As our families are faced daily with countless trials and sufferings, how can we see the joy of the Lord in our lives? The readings for today allow us to rediscover the true joy that takes away all the sadness in our life.
Presence of God. The First Reading reminds us that the presence of the Lord brings joy to the whole creation. Not only does the joy of the Lord’s presence give new life to the earth, but also healing and fullness of life where sickness and suffering will fade, and “sorrow and mourning will flee” (Is 35:10). The presence of the Lord in the sacraments, especially in Confession and Eucharist, makes us new persons, and brings incomparable joy in our heart and soul. God’s presence when shared through charity brings gladness not only to the recipient but also to the giver. Let us always invoke God’s presence and share it so that we may experience and share this profound joy.
Hope for Salvation. St. James in the Second Reading exhorts all Christians to patiently endure all hardship and trials until the coming of the Lord. The hope of Jesus coming again in glory should inspire and strengthen us in the midst of suffering and afflictions. Hope and joy are intimately connected to one another. A hope-filled person is a joyful person. It is hope in the fullness of redemption that brings us true joy and consolation in this valley of tears. Pope Francis quotes the book of Lamentations in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: “My soul is bereft of peace… But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end… Great is your faithfulness… It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam 3:17, 21-23, 26). One endures all his trials and afflictions, knowing that in the end, he will share in the glory of Christ’s resurrection.
Humility Before God. When asked by John’s disciples if he really is the Christ, Jesus drew their attention to the marvelous happenings of Jesus’ ministry, to what they “hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk…” The Lord did not proudly nor directly proclaim that he is the Messiah. With humility, he instead quoted Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming of Messianic age, which is evident in all Jesus’ works and deeds. We shall also see in the latter part of the Gospel Jesus exalting John the Baptist as the greatest prophet in history. These humble people are recognized by Jesus as blessed in his kingdom. We are reminded of the Beatitudes where the poor, meek, and humble of heart will inherit the Kingdom of God. The way to a life full of joy is the way of humility. A proud person is so full of himself that all the happiness in his life is passing. A humble person recognizes God as the source of true and eternal joy.
God, through his presence, has shared the gift of joy to us. We indeed have every reason to be joyful because of his Son who came down for our salvation. This Christmas, may we also offer the gift of Christian joy to all our brothers and sisters.
– Sofronio A. Bancud, DD, Bishop of Cabanatuan
– (Dec. 11, 2017)