Blog di FORMAZIONE PERMANENTE MISSIONARIA – Uno sguardo missionario sulla Vita, il Mondo e la Chiesa MISSIONARY ONGOING FORMATION – A missionary look on the life of the world and the church
IS 61:1-2, 10-11
1 THES 5:16-24
JN 1:6-8, 19-28
We cannot yet see the Lord, but we celebrate the fact that union with him is our eternal destiny
Hugh of St. Victor (1096-1141) describes the Church as a bridal hall. Each and every soul is a bride, awaiting the final moment of her wedding to God.
The soul adorns herself through the healing oil of the sacraments and the fragrance of the virtues. Life in the Church is not about complacency, feeling that one has arrived at one’s salvation. Instead, ecclesial life is to be marked by a deeper longing for God’s final coming, for total union with the triune God.
On this third Sunday of Advent, we are formed anew for this divine desire. The prophet Isaiah promises that God’s Spirit will descend upon creation, bringing about the final moment of espousal that Israel has longed for.
God “has clothed me … like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels” (Is 61:10). The covenant that God once sealed with Israel will now be made permanent. Israel and God will dwell together in perfect peace, concord and love.
It is this Bridegroom that John the Baptist announces in the Gospel of John. John the Baptist is not the Christ, the Messiah who has come to bring about the end of Roman rule. He will not establish God’s kingdom.
John the Baptism is not Elijah, the apocalyptic prophet, who would reveal all things.
John the Baptist is the one who points to the one who is coming, the hidden Bridegroom: “‘I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize … whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie’” (Jn 1:26-27).
Like the Pharisees listening to John, we too must wonder. Who is this hidden one who is coming? Who is the one who will reveal the truth of all things? Readers of John’s Gospel, of course, know: “And the Word was made flesh, and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14).
John the Baptist points toward the glory of the Word made flesh, the source of light and life who will reveal all things. How can we not long for the coming of this Bridegroom, for the manifestation of God’s very glory?
The wedding promised in Isaiah has taken place. Humanity has been espoused to God in the person of the Word made flesh.
On the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, the Church begins to sing the bridal song of rejoicing. We cannot yet see the Bridegroom fully, but we can cry out with the introit for this week, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again, I say rejoice.”
We practice this rejoicing, this longing for the final consummation of the union of God and man, through letting our whole lives become a prayer of desire for God: “Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes 5:16-18).
Prayer is not an obligation. Participation in the sacramental life, including the Eucharist, is not merely an obligatory activity. Instead, it is a foretaste of the wedding feast that we long for. It is the way that we adorn ourselves for the wedding feast that God will bring about at the end of time.
Life in the Church is lived in between the wondrous deeds that God has accomplished in Christ and the final arrival of the Bridegroom.
On the third Sunday of Advent, we must become like brides who long for this final wedding, this total union with Christ that is our destiny.
Until then, rejoice always.
Timothy P. O’Malley
In recent Sundays the liturgy has emphasized what it means to assume an attitude oiao f vigilance and what preparing the way of the Lord entails, concretely. On this Third Sunday of Advent, called the “Sunday of joy”, the liturgy invites us to welcome the spirit with which all this happens, that is, precisely, joy. Saint Paul invites us to prepare for the coming of the Lord, by assuming three attitudes. Listen carefully: three attitudes. First, constant joy; second, steadfast prayer; third, continuous thanksgiving. Constant joy, steadfast prayer and continuous thanksgiving.
The first attitude, constant joy: “Rejoice always” (1 Thess 5:16), Saint Paul says. This means always being joyful, even when things do not go according to our wishes; but there is that profound joy, which is peace: that too is joy; it is within. And peace is a joy “at the ground level”, but it is a joy. Distress, difficulties and suffering pass through each person’s life, we are all familiar with them; and so often the reality that surrounds us seems to be inhospitable and barren, similar to the desert in which the voice of John the Baptist resonated, as today’s Gospel passage recalls (cf. Jn 1:23). But the very words of the Baptist reveal that our joy rests on a certainty, that this desert is inhabited: “among you” — he says — “stands one whom you do not know” (v. 26). It refers to Jesus, the Father’s envoy who comes, as Isaiah stresses, “to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (61:1-2). These words, which Jesus will speak in his discourse at the synagogue of Nazareth (cf. Lk 4:16-19), clarify that his mission in the world consists in the liberation from sin and from the personal and social slavery that it produces. He has come to the earth to restore to mankind the dignity and freedom of the Children of God — which only he can communicate — and thereby to give joy.
The joy which characterizes the awaiting of the Messiah is based on steadfast prayer: this is the second attitude. Saint Paul says: “pray constantly” (1 Thess 5:17). By praying we can enter a stable relationship with God, who is the source of true joy. A Christian’s joy is not bought; it cannot be bought. It comes from faith and from the encounter with Jesus Christ, the reason for our happiness. And when we are rooted in Christ, the closer we are to Jesus, the more we find inner peace, even among everyday contradictions. For this reason a Christian, having encountered Jesus, cannot be a prophet of misfortune, but a witness and herald of joy. A joy to share with others; an infectious joy that renders the journey of life less toilsome.
The third attitude Paul points to is continuous thanksgiving, which is grateful love towards God. Indeed, he is very generous to us, and we are invited to always recognize his beneficence, his merciful love, his patience and goodness, thus living in unceasing
Joy, prayer and gratitude are three attitudes that prepare us to experience Christmas in an authentic way. Joy, prayer and gratitude. Everyone together, let us say: joy, prayer and gratitude. In this last period of the Season of Advent, let us entrust ourselves to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary. She is a “cause of our joy”, not only because she begot Jesus, but because she keeps directing us to him.