The theme of today’s Mass is proclaimed from the first word of the entrance antiphon, and repeated insistently throughout, “Rejoice” – or in Latin, “Gaudete”, from which today, the Third Sunday of Advent takes its name, “Gaudete” Sunday.
The entrance antiphon opens,
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.
(Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete).
This command to rejoice is inclusive, all – embracing. In the reading from Isaiah 35, it is extended beyond just human society, to include all of creation
Let the wilderness and the dry-lands exult,let the wasteland rejoice and bloom,
If even the wilderness has cause to rejoice, then certainly this applies also to all who are marginalised or oppressed.The Psalm (145) makes explicit that this is the reason for the rejoicing, bringing to mind for Christians the words which Christ chose in the temple at the start of his active ministry, for which it serves as foundation text:
It is the Lord who keeps faith for ever,
who is just to those who are oppressed.
It is he who gives bread to the hungry,
the Lord, who sets prisoners free
It is the Lord who gives sight to the blind,
who raises up those who are bowed down,
the Lord, who protects the stranger
and upholds the widow and orphan
In the second reading, the letter of St James, there is a caveat: the Lord is coming, and will bring justice – but not immediately. We must be patient.
Be patient, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. Think of a farmer: how patiently he waits for the precious fruit of the ground until it has had the autumn rains and the spring rains! You too have to be patient; do not lose heart, because the Lord’s coming will be soon.
Even the short Gospel Acclamation reminds us, once again, of the central message of the Gospel – the Good News (for the poor, and all others who are marginalised or oppressed):
The spirit of the Lord has been given to me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor.
In the Gospels, Christ himself refers to his central message as “Good News” for all who are poor, disadvantaged or otherwise oppressed. Speaking to the messengers from John the Baptist, he tells them:
‘Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor; and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.’