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  • Bill Miller

Scripture Reflection, December 17, 2023, Third Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 John 1:6-8, 19-28

I find today’s readings full of excitement, full of promise, full of hope. Let me explain.

On this “Gaudete” (Rejoice) Sunday, we hear Isaiah talking about the incredible joy he feels. He seems to have absolute clarity about his role as a prophet. He has been anointed by God to:

“bring glad tidings to the poor…

heal the brokenhearted…

proclaim liberty to the captives…(and more)….”

Isaiah is quick to declare that he is rejoicing heartily in the Lord. He feels “clothed with a robe of salvation” and “wrapped in a mantle of justice.” It appears to me as if he is having what might be considered an ecstatic experience of God…what Christian mystics such as Teresa of Avila, Hildegard of Bingen and Thomas Merton may have called a “moment of ecstasy” with the Lord.

Think about your own life. Can you recall a time when you felt particularly close to God…a time when you experienced the urge to proclaim your love, praise or thankfulness for God’s presence in your life? Perhaps you were attending a religious ceremony, such as a Mass, the celebration of a Sacrament, etc. Perhaps you were astonished by the beauty of a sunrise or sunset. Perhaps you had just completed a profoundly important moment of intimacy as you accompanied a close friend. Do you remember feeling very close to the Lord at that moment?

Moments of incredible joy and closeness to God are not reserved only for the great Saints of the Church. They are offered to us as well. On this Gaudete Sunday, we are being invited to “go deeper” into our relationship with our Lord…to spend some time imagining - to the best of our abilities - how very very much God loves us; and wants us to share that love with all of creation.

Yes, there will be struggles. For some of us, those struggles are happening right here, right now. However, today’s readings remind us that God is ALWAYS with us - and that, at certain specific times, God works to provide special moments of unabashed joy. In just over a week we will have the opportunity to celebrate the promise of the three-fold coming of Christ: born to Mary, returning at the end of time, and entering our hearts and lives to love and guide us. It is cause for great celebration. Perhaps even a moment of ecstasy!

Again I say: Rejoice!

by Bill Miller

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