On this Third Sunday of Advent, we celebrate Gaudete, Rejoice Sunday – this “name” is taken from the entrance antiphon of the Mass, which is: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near” (this is a quotation from Philippians 4:4-5, and in Latin, the first word of the antiphon is Gaudete). The readings this Sunday echo similar sentiments: St Paul in the second reading reminds us “Be happy at all times… in Christ Jesus” and the prophet Isaiah exclaims, “I exult for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God”. The theme of joy comes both from the message of readings and from the anticipation that the feast of the Nativity is near.

The gospel today revolves around the question put to John the Baptist by priests and Levites from Jerusalem – “Who are you?’ The question is not so much about his identity or where he came from, but it was a question about who is John the Baptism in relation to the Messiah and the significance of “the voice”? Interestingly, John only tells them who he is not and offers his “identity” in relation to the prophecy of Isaiah… “I am a voice that cries in the wilderness: Make a straight way for the Lord.” With this response, John emphasized why he had come. He wanted to prepare them to recognise who Jesus was. By wanting to know who John was, these religious leaders missed the point.

There’s no getting around it – John the Baptist was unique. This appointed messenger was very aware that his role was to prepare the way for the Messiah – that someone greater than him coming to intervene into human history, to dispel the darkness in the world. Even though people were moved by John’s authority and responded by the hundreds, John was not going to take centre stage. His role had been clearly defined – to “speak for the light”. Thus, John pointed beyond himself never forgetting that his main purpose was to be “the voice” announcing the coming of the Messiah. Those who came to question John wanted to establish the credibility of his voice. However, the voice of John is only transitional because it is “the voice” that is to come after John that really matters – the voice of Jesus Christ.

We live in a world that produces much noise, which threatens to drown God’s voice completely. At times it can be confusing and even distressing when having to filter out the noises of the world so as to be able to listen to the voice of Jesus. During this Christmas period, the array of colourful lights and decorations, the glowing Christmas trees, the limitless spread of cookies and cakes, can easily drown out the voice of God. In the midst of all the external preparations, God is also calling us to a quiet place so that we can listen to His voice directing our steps. That “quiet place” need not be in some distant location away from home but instead, we can create that quiet place right where we are. Sometimes we just need to take a step back from the things that we are doing and allow God to speak to us. If our lives are filled with activity and noise all around us, we can never hear the voice.

The need to listen closely for God’s voice is illustrated in the following story… After trying for several months to find new employment, the man went to see his pastor for some advice. As he recalled his story, he became angry and said, “I’ve begged and begged God to say something to me, to help me get through this but I hear nothing coming. Why doesn’t God answer me?!” Sitting on the other side of the room, the pastor made a reply that was so soft the man had to get closer to hear him. As he sat in the chair next to the pastor, he asked, “What did you say?” The pastor again spoke softly and quietly. The man leaned over and said, “I’m sorry, I still cannot hear you.” The old pastor spoke once more: “God sometimes whispers, so we have to move closer to hear him” (Sourced from the Internet).In the remaining days of Advent, take some time to step back from what you are doing, move closer to God in prayer, and you will hear “the voice” speaking to you. In the words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer”.

Third Sunday of Advent (13 Dec 2020)