A note about “Gaudete Sunday”: In the Liturgical tradition of Roman Catholicism, this Sunday is one of the two Sundays (one in Advent and the other in Lent, called “Laetare Sunday”) when the seasonal purple vestments can yield to a lighter colour of “rose” (a dusty pink). The name which is taken from the Latin Entrance Antiphon for this Mass Gaudete in Domino semper; “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4) conveys a certain attenuation or “lessening” of the more somber/serious tone of the season, and provides a prelude or hint of the coming season of joy and celebration – the brightness of Christmas already begins to “colour” our Advent waiting! (Reference: website http:/jezuiti).
As we continue to meditate on the ministry and preaching of Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, who had taken on the mantle of the ancient Jewish prophets, to proclaim the coming of a new era, when the “winding roads” must be straightened and made ready for God’s imminent arrival, we cannot help but admire his very attractive, unusual character and radical courage. His preaching is such that the people listening have been cut to the heart and are prepared to change their ways, to enter into the process of conversion to which he is calling them. They ask what they must do… what concrete actions are appropriate responses to his message?
– To the crowd he responds very practically – You must share with those who have less than you.
– To the despised tax collectors, and their soldiers his replies are very practical and down-to-earth, namely that they should not collect more than they were required to, they should not extort money, they should not accuse people falsely and that they should be content with their pay.
John does not invite his hearers to join him in the wilderness, to pray and fast but he challenges them to share, to be fair, to be honest, have compassion and to be contented. His responses are appropriate to those who ask the questions.
John’s answer to the crowd also summons us to a profound sensitivity to those around us. If we are to give to those who are less fortunate, then we must first allow our eyes and hearts to be opened to notice them, which is where we often fail, especially in the increasingly busy world in which we live.
What do YOU think John’s response would be to you today, should you ask the question? Will his answer be: Be less selfish? Take time to visit the sick? Tithe your time, talent, treasure?
The essence of the Baptist’s teaching is applicable to everyone today; whatever our work is, do it faithfully, ethically and responsibly.
Although John is aware of his charisma, his leadership and influence, his humility is to be noted; he points away from himself and points his listeners to Jesus.
To quote Fr Liessi (former Attaché at the Apostolic Nunciature) to catechists (Catholic News March 20, 2011), “We are called not to gather and repeat data about Jesus, but to encounter him; our knowledge arises from an encounter…. This is what we are called to do: lead people to meet Jesus, the living Lord.”
“There were many other things John said to exhort the people and to announce the Good News to them.”
– What are the many other things?
– How can I be a John the Baptist remembering that someone is coming who is more powerful than I am?
– How can I use the preaching of John the Baptist to help my learners experience a deeper Advent, bearing in mind that when the Gospel is preached in all its simple power, it touches people and inspires in them a desire of repentance, a hunger for God and for the forgiveness God alone can offer?
The Gospel preached with sincerity and conviction, challenges us to action and especially to change, in our own lives.
As catechists and teachers we are called not only to model the self-giving life of John the Baptist but to be exemplars of pointing our students to Christ. (Reference: Sharing the Good News –Cycle C)
Julie Jennings-Chan, Archdiocesan Catechetical Office