In our Catholic liturgical calendar this is “Gaudete Sunday — the Sunday of Joy. We’re more than half-way through Advent and the vestment color is Rose, rather than purple, the color of penitence. So, we see the celebrant in rose vestments.
This is supposed to be a joyful time of year but . . . some us don’t see things clearly, or can’t speak up for ourselves or are disabled. some of us are afraid ~ disillusioned ~ confused ~ depressed ~ lonely ~weak-kneed and in need of a good old-fashioned infusion of hope and joy, so . . .
Today’s first reading from Isaiah 61:1-2.10 sums up the joyful, hopeful mood of this third Advent Sunday:
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God.I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice.
Now to today’s Gospel story. . .
Once again, I’d like to offer a simple commentary to help us understand the scripture a little. For the last two weeks we’ve heard the stories of St. Mark’s accounts of John the Baptist; today we hear from St. John. William Barclay, the great Presbyterian Scripture scholar says that a characteristic of a Fourth Gospel is that the emissaries of the Jews come to cross-question John. The word Jews occurs in this gospel over seventy times and the Jews are always in opposition; they are the ones who have set themselves against Jesus.
The agents who came to interview John were composed of two kinds of people. First, the priests and the Levites, Their interest was natural. As we said a week ago, John was the son of Zachariah, who was a priest. And the Hebraic priesthood was passed on from father to son; thus, John the Baptist was also a priest.
The whole thing shows how suspicious orthodoxy is of anything new. John didn’t conform to the normal ideas of a priest or a preacher. (The same thing happens in the Church with stuff that’s new.)
So they went out to ask him questions. “Who are you? “I am not the Christ—the Messiah”, he said. “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?
What do you have to say for yourself?” He said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord,'” as Isaiah the prophet said.”
Some Pharisees were also sent.
They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?”
John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”
Second, there were the emissaries of the Pharisees. It may well be that behind them was the Sanhedrin—the Hebrew High Court, who were to scrutinize anyone who was suspected of being a false prophet.
There are two parts to our commentary here: What seemed strange to the Pharisees was that John was asking Jews to be washed while that was only required of Gentiles as they became Jews.
The second is this: “To untie the straps of sandals was slaves work. Barclay notes there was a Rabbinic saying that a disciple might do for a master anything that a servant did except only to untie his sandals. That was too menial a service even for a disciple to render, So John said in effect, “One is coming whose slave I am not fit to be.”
John’s function was simply to prepare the way. He was the great example of the man prepare to obliterate himself in order that Jesus, is Lord and Savior—and ours might be seen. God give us the grace to forget ourselves and to remember only Christ
John was simply the signpost, pointing the way toward Christ. He was faithful even unto imprisonment and death to simply be the messenger.
My spiritual director some time ago suggested I pray to John the Baptist, and so I do so now . . .
O John, how lovingly you served your Lord.
I am dumbfounded at my own lack of humility,
my refusal to serve, the meagreness in the way I do serve.
You inspire me, even in my later years to wait upon my God to act in my life,
to wait for him to do new things.
Thank you, John, for your service-unto-death;
I ask for the grace, the strength and the courage to also serve my Lord unto the end of my days.
COME LORD JESUS!
To get you in a joyful mood I have a surprise for you: Here’s Andre Rieu with a grand orchestra and singers performing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers, enter full screen and prepare to be goosebumped!
And here are all the of the Readings for today’s Mass, if you’d like those as well. Click here.
William Barclay / The Daily Study Bible Series / the Gospel of John – Volume 1 Revised Edition Westminster Press / Philadelphia 1975 / pp. 75-80.