Gospel reflection – 3rd Sunday of Advent

The Joy of Believing (John 1:6-8, 19-28)

The Third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete, the Sunday of Joy.  We are coming closer to the birth of the Saviour.  Last Sunday we heard John the Baptist say that his task was to prepare the way for someone more powerful coming after him.  “He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.”

In today’s Second Reading, Paul tells us, “Be happy at all times; pray constantly; and for all things give thanks to God, because that is what God expects you to do in Christ Jesus.  Never try to supress the Holy Spirit.”  Paul is not advocating a superficial clap-happy game.  Rather, his focus is on a deep, spiritual joy, rooted in God and growing through constant prayer, gratitude, and cooperation with the Holy Spirit.

Saint Pope Paul VI wrote a beautiful letter on Christian joy.  He identified three sources of joy: giving, seeing and believing.


It is in giving that we receive.  Giving involves moving out of the shell of selfishness.   Pope Francis tells us that when we live out of a spirituality of drawing nearer to others and seeking their welfare, our hearts are opened to the Lord’s greatest and most beautiful gifts.  On the other hand, when we flee, hide, refuse to share, stop giving and lock ourselves up in our own comforts it is a form of slow suicide (The Joy of the Gospel, 272).

Remember what the Lord said about the final judgement: those who give to the poor and needy will be invited to enter the joy of heaven.


It’s a matter of how we see things. How can we say that we love God whom we have never seen if we do not love the people we do see?  Pope Francis develops this idea.  “God is present in the life of every person, in a way that he himself chooses, and we cannot exclude this by our presumed certainties.  Even when someone’s life seems to be wrecked, even when we see it devastated by vices and addictions, God is present there.  If we let ourselves be guided by the Spirit rather than our own preconceptions, we can and must try to find the Lord in every human life.” (Rejoice and be Glad, 42)

Chesterton wrote that there is no shortage of wonders but what is missing is wonderment.  When Jesus urged us to be childlike, surely he referred to seeing with the child’s sense of wonder.  Children love games of peeping, through their fingers, around a corner or a partially opened door.   Patrick Kavanagh took this image to begin his poem on Advent:

“We have tested and tasted too much, lover –

Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.”

Nowadays there is a compulsion to test and taste the latest gadgets, the excitement of travel and an endless array of consumer goods, at times leaving no room for God’s voice.   The psalmist prayed: “I thank you for the wonder of my being and the wonder of all your creation.” We can be so preoccupied with these compulsions that we lose the sense of wonder.  As Jesus said to his friend Martha, “You worry and fret about too many things but few are needed.”


The third step towards joy is in believing.  In today’s Gospel John the Baptist tells the people that “there stands among you – unknown to you – the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo his sandal strap.”   Sadly, for many people today the real Jesus is unknown, his name reduced to a word of profanity.  The first Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis is called The Joy of the Gospel.   “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.  Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness.  With Christ joy is constantly born anew.”

People who encounter Jesus in faith belong to a religion of extraordinary beauty.   If everybody took the ideals of the Sermon on the Mount seriously, we would have no more wars or hatred or abuse of people.   His Resurrection from the dead opens up a whole new meaning and direction to our lives.   The Blessed Eucharist is the Lord Himself coming as the Bread of Life.

Again, we quote Pope Francis: “Allow yourself to be loved and liberated”

Open your mind and heart to the Saviour.  God is real, God loves us, God is with us.

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

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