This Sunday, the third Sunday of Lent, is traditionally called Gaudete Sunday. It is “rejoicing Sunday,” as “Gaudete” is the first word of the Entrance Antiphon, taken from Philippians 4:4-5: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.”
Gaudete Sunday, along with Laetare Sunday in Lent (as an aside, to avoid confusion, remember Laetare and Lent begin with L), are the two days in which rose-colored vestments may be worn. And that’s why on our Advent wreaths we light the rose (okay, pink) candle this Sunday.
But what is this day all about? Sure, we’re getting close to Christmas, but what really is the Church teaching us on Gaudete Sunday? Why on a day that we’re supposed to rejoice, we hear a Gospel passage about John the Baptist in prison wondering whether Jesus truly is the one?
In this regard, I highly recommend Archbishop Joseph Naumann’s homily for this Sunday, which is now posted at www.cuf.org. Here’s a sampling:
“I was reminded recently of the remarkable power of Jesus to give His disciples joy and hope, even in the most dreadful circumstances, while reading Advent of the Heart, a collection of Advent homilies and reflections by the German Jesuit, Father Alfred Delp. Like John the Baptist, Father Delp found himself incarcerated for his opposition to the Nazis. On February 2, 1945 Father Delp would be executed, as was John the Baptist, for his refusal to compromise the truth.
“Writing with handcuffs around his wrists from his prison cell in December of 1944, Father Delp reflected on the meaning of this Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday: ‘The conditions for true joy have nothing to do with the conditions of our exterior life, but consist of man’s interior frame of mind and competence, which makes it possible now and again for him to sense, even in adverse circumstances, what life is basically about.’”
For the entire homily, click here.
I’d like to make an additional recommendation here, as the liturgy calls us to contemplate St. John the Baptist during these days. When I think of St. John the Baptist, I think of this verse from St. Matthew’s Gospel: “From the days of John the Baptist the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent bear it away.” This verse motivates me to avoid getting too comfortable or complacent here, as the Gospel call is always radical and demands our resolve to go against the grain–not only on a societal level, but even more, to do battle within ourselves. A superb novel that is really a meditation on this enigmatic verse is Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away.
As Gaudete Sunday approaches, I’ll say it again: Rejoice! The Lord is near!