We live in difficult times. There are ongoing crises in Israel-Palestine, and Ukraine-Russia, and emerging conflict in the South China Sea.
Then there are the climate and economic crises that threaten food security. We are also faced with enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, and violations of the rights of activists, human rights defenders, environmentalists, workers, and farmers, which happen with impunity.
The human race has suffered hardships since exploitation became part of the relationship between people, systems, and structures. Gladly, the scriptures today provide us with both hope and direction.
While the situation is uncertain and problematic, the third Sunday of Advent proclaims the message of joy and glad tidings.
As we come together on this Gaudete Sunday, a day of joy amid our Advent journey, the words of the prophet Isaiah resound in our hearts: “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, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels.”
Though the people of God who are returning from exile experienced extreme hardships and challenges one after another as they struggled for their liberation, sustained by enthusiasm and hope, they managed to overcome difficulties.
The city was defenseless; their houses were crumbling and the land of their fathers was occupied. Drought has reduced many families to poverty. Newcomers were burdened with debts, and some became slaves of landowners and unscrupulous profiteers.
In this challenging situation, the prophet Isaiah rose and proclaimed the good news to the discouraged and heartbroken. “I was sent,”—he says— “to give courage and hope to those who are disappointed, to bind up broken hearts, to bring good tidings to those who suffer, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and to announce the year of the Lord’s favor” (vv. 1-2).
The year of the Lord has come, in which each one can reclaim property, condone debts, and rejoin family (Lev 25:10). No one must resign to live in misery and slavery. It is time for the poor to lift their heads and regain their dignity.
Isaiah’s prophecy mirrors the message of joy and liberation that we celebrate today. It’s a proclamation of hope and a call to action. In our beloved land, a nation that has known both triumphs and tribulations, these words find new life.
They speak to the struggles of those in poverty, to the brokenhearted seeking solace, and to those who are captives to the chains of injustice. They also speak to us to act and aspire for a radical transformation of society
In our history, we have seen prophetic voices rise, much like Isaiah, that speak truth to power. The Advent season calls us to heed these prophetic voices in our midst.
They challenge us to examine the structures that perpetuate inequality, to confront the systems that keep our brothers and sisters in captivity, and to actively participate in the healing of our broken world.
An authentic Christian faith is not confined to the sanctuary; it spills into the streets, and the homes of the oppressed. The preferential option for the poor is a theological concept and a lived reality. It’s a commitment to stand in solidarity with those whom Isaiah describes as the “poor in spirit” (anawim).
The poor are the anawim of God, they are those who believe that God is with them or coming to them and will be with them. It is God who they believe in totally and completely. They don’t believe in “systems”.
They don’t believe in money. They don’t believe in power. They believe that the presence of God will be with them in their struggles. He alone is their source of hope and enlightenment.
Jesus said, “You have the good news now and I am proclaiming it.” (ref.Matthew 11:2-11) And what is the good news? The good news is that God has come to be with us and stay with us. God has sent His Son and God Himself has come with him, as the Father and the Holy Spirit, and “when you look at me, you must see in me the Son of God.”
John the Baptist is one of those who embraced the challenge of the prophet Isaiah to become witness to the glad tidings (good news) for the poor. In the gospel of John, John the Baptist is not the precursor of the Messiah but a witness to the light, Jesus himself.
He saw in Jesus the Spirit that would bring true and radical newness to our social condition, the new heaven, and the new earth. We are called to be like John the Baptist. We are called to be apostles and witnesses.
We have been entrusted with a mission from God. We have been created for a purpose. We were given God’s life at baptism so we can share his life with others.
We are his witnesses. We are called to make the presence of Christ a reality in our worlds by witnessing his presence through our own lives.
As we reflect on the joy of Gaudete Sunday, let us also be attentive to the cries of the poor and the marginalized, the earth, and all its creatures. Our joy is incomplete if not extended to our brothers and sisters who long for liberation.
It will not be meaningful if it ignores the cry of our Mother Earth, raped and taken advantage of for profit. Advent calls us to be active participants in the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy — to be the bearers of glad tidings, healers of broken hearts, and proclaimers of liberty.
In our beloved country, where the spirit of resilience runs deep, let us find inspiration in the hope embedded in Isaiah’s words. As we navigate the challenges of our nation, may we be people who, like Mary, responded with a resounding “yes” to the call for justice, liberation, and joy.
Finally, may this Sunday remind us that our joy is intricately linked to the liberation we bring to others and our “common home”, just as Christ, whose birth we eagerly await, came to liberate us all.
Gospel reflection of Fr. Aris Miranda, MI for the Third Sunday of Advent. IS 61:1-2A, 10-11 LK 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54 1 THES 5:16-24 JN 1:6-8, 19-28