3rd Sunday of Advent – Gaudete Sunday
Advent is a time of expectation, a time of hope, and the whole Old Testament was more or less an advent; preparing for the coming of Christ. But it took a long time, because the people were often discouraged. The prophet Isaiah lived in a difficult time, but he could live also in hope. And he promised the people that a leader would arise. Someone who would bring encouragement to the people, heal the sick, comfort the afflicted and liberate the country. And of course the people believed it to a certain extent but there was no sign of it happening. For centuries there wasnÕt even a prophet. The psalmist would say Ôwe have no priest nor prophet, we have no one to tell us what we should doÕ. When John the Baptist arrived on the scene people sat up and took notice. Here was a man who had a message, here was a man who lived the message. He was out in the wilderness, dressed in some sort of rags, he lived on the meanest of food, but yet he had a powerful voice and to a certain extent, a powerful message. So obviously when Jesus appeared later on the question would be asked; which of them was the leader? And todayÕs gospel is from St. John which was written a good while after Our LordÕs time, but when John the Baptists followers were still very much to the fore. And the message of the gospel was that John was the fore runner, John was the man to introduce people but he wasnÕt the Messiah himself. John makes this quite clear and then when the PhariseeÕs say Ôwell who are you? And he says I am what Isaiah called Ôa voice crying in the wilderness, make straight the paths of the LordÕ. Now the problem is when Jesus came people didnÕt take too much notice of him after a while. He told them in the synagogue in Nazareth that he was the one that was foretold by Isaiah. He said Ôlook around you; the sick are cured, the dead are risen, the message is preached to the poor and the day of your liberation is at handÕ. And they laughed at him and said Ôyou, the carpenter from Nazareth, we know how you areÕ. And shortly afterwards they threatened to kill him. So often times when we expect something, when we hope for something and when it comes we are not exactly enamoured by it. I remember as a young lad I always wanted to have a watch, and my aunt in America brought me one and when I got it, it didnÕt mean much at all. The expectation can often give greater gratification than the actual result. We all know that ourselves. ItÕs like a small kid opening a Christmas box and getting what she wanted and then saying Ôis that allÕ? We can never really be satisfied with the things of this earth, we can only be satisfied in God.
Now today we are told itÕs a day of joy. A day of rejoicing, a day of prayer and a day of thanksgiving. And I suppose we should look at that from the spiritual point of view, even though we mightnÕt feel it from the material point of view. As we know, today in our country itÕs not exactly a time of rejoicing. We are living in an age of protest. We are not really happy with what we have. And yet John the Baptist told the people in his time – he said Ôbe content with what you haveÕ. And thatÕs a difficult thing to do. Some of the elderly people among you will remember the war years. Everything was rationed. Even if you had money you couldnÕt buy anything. It wasnÕt there. Cars were off the road – there was no petrol. Even if you had a bike, you couldnÕt get a tyre or a tube. So the pony & trap came into focus very much but most people had to walk. And yet no one protested for the simple reason that there wasnÕt any point in doing it. And they were even somewhat cheerful about it. One of the prominent songs at the time was a song of blessing really. Some of you might remember it:
ÔBless the long and the short and the tall,
Bless De Valera and Sean Mc Entee.
Bless the black flour and the half ounce of teaÕ.
You see the people were grateful for grateful for small things. There was touch of irony to it but at the same time it was also a realisation that we were lucky to have even what we had. And thatÕs the sort of thing that we should think of today. Jesus in his preaching compared – well he used a nursery rhyme comparing people of his day with what was happening. You might remember he says of children in the market place Ôwe piped and you didnÕt dance; we mourned and you didnÕt mourn eitherÕ. In other words they werenÕt satisfied with anything. And thereÕs another, I suppose a nursery rhyme some of you might remember, and it might be a bit indicative of today:
" 'Pudding and pie' said Jane: 'Oh, my!'
'Which would you rather?' Said her father.
'Both,' said Jane, Quite bold and plain."
In other words, we want everything but then of course we will finish up by having nothing.
I was at a funeral the other week, I was just reminded because the Abbot of Roscrea was 36 years Abbot there, Lord of the Manor and yet he finished up with 6 feet of clay. No matter what we have in this life, we have to leave it after us. As St.Paul says in todayÕs reading, three things we should remember today: be thankful, be prayerful and be joyful.
We are told that we are living in a valley of tears. That is only for certain occasions. Someone said that life is like an onion – the more you peel it the more you weep. At least when it comes to Christmas time, stop peeling!