Third Sunday of Advent
December 13, 2020 — Year B
Readings: Is 61:1-2A, 10-11 / Lk 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54 / 1 Thes 5:16-24 / Jn 1:6-8, 19-28
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
Not only is this the Third Sunday of Advent, it’s also Gaudete Sunday. That’s why Father and I are in rose vestments.
There was something odd in our readings today. The psalm at Mass almost always comes from the Book of Psalms. But not today. It was the Magnificat, which comes from the Gospel of Luke.
In that gospel, Mary has been visited by the angel. Then she travels to visit her relative, Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist, about whom we’ve just heard in the gospel.
When Elizabeth sees Mary, Mary greets her, and Elizabeth exclaims, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” John, in the womb, leaps for joy at the presence of Jesus Christ.
Then Mary says the Magnificat. It’s like a hymn of praise: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God, my Savior.” Rejoice; Gaudete.
It’s very appropriate that we have these Marian references on this day. It’s also interesting that yesterday was the Feast of Our Lady of Guadeloupe, the patroness of the Americas.
The image that’s associated with the apparition of Mary at Guadeloupe contains a wealth of symbolism. These images make reference to the Book of Revelation, which is particularly appropriate at this time of year, when we are in a time of preparation, when we are in a time of anticipation: anticipation to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, but also to pray for and anticipate His Second Coming.
The Book of Revelation, the final book of the New Testament, reads: “I saw a woman, clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet.” The image from Guadeloupe shows Mary standing on a crescent moon, a reference to Revelation. Focal to that image, key to that reading in Revelation, and prevalent in today’s readings is the image of light.
Rays of light come from behind the Blessed Mother in the image from Guadeloupe.
We use that image of light to remind us of Christ. We always have candles at our liturgies. We have the Advent wreath. Whenever you see a candle at a liturgy, you should be reminded of the light of Christ.
In the rite of Baptism, a candle is lit from the Paschal candle, the candle that is blessed at the Easter Vigil. That candle is the most significant image in our church of the light of Christ. In the Baptism rite, the newly lit candle is given to the parents and godparents, and the celebrant says, “Receive the light of Christ,” because that’s what’s just happened: Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the one that has been baptized has received the light of Christ.
Each one of us who has been baptized has received that light, and it’s there within all of us. That light is meant to shine forth in the darkness.
Admittedly, things are rather dark right now. Here in the Northern hemisphere, we’re approaching the shortest day of the year. We’re also living in the midst of a pandemic, where many people are struggling to pay their bills. Many are worried about sick loved ones or mourning the loss of a loved one. So many are struggling to find hope, and they’re living in darkness.
But we, like Mary, can shine forth that light of Christ. That light emanating from Mary in the image of her apparition does not come from her. It’s the light of Christ, just like the moon beneath her feet, which has no light of its own, but reflects the light that it receives from the sun.
We are called to do the same. We have been blessed through the Spirit with the light of Christ, and we are called to share that light, especially in times of darkness.
As you leave here today, I invite you to remember this phrase: “Gaudete in domino semper,” which means “Rejoice in the Lord always.” Rejoice in the light of Christ, and share that light and that joy wherever you encounter darkness.