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Prepared for Mission
Third Sunday of Advent: Gaudete Sunday
John 1:6-8, 19-28
A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, “Who are you?” he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, “I am not the Messiah.” So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?” He said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for this holy season of Advent. Thank you for helping us to prepare our hearts to receive you. Help me to meditate on your mission. St. John the Baptist, pray for me and point me to Christ.
- Ready the Way: This is Gaudete Sunday, the day when we remember to rejoice as we prepare our hearts for the joy that Christ brings on Christmas morning. St. John the Baptist was sent to prepare the hearts of the people for Christ, to “make straight the way of the Lord” (John 1:23). He is the embodiment of Advent. He came in righteousness (Matthew 21:32) to help the people prepare for the joy that they would receive when the Messiah arrived. We can truly experience the joy of Christmas when we have become righteous by conforming ourselves to God’s will. This is the reason for the penitential cleansing of this season: We shed all of the sinful clutter in our hearts to make a straight path for Christ to come and reign in us.
- Sent from God: God the Father sent Jesus on his mission: “I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me” (John 6:38). St. John the Baptist was also “sent from God” (John 1:6) on his own mission: to prepare the way for Christ. When the priests questioned John about his identity–“Who are you?”–what they really wanted to know was his purpose. Jesus has sent us on our own missions as well. Just before his passion–the culmination and fulfillment of his mission–he prayed to the Father for us, to help prepare us for our missions: “As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world” (John 17:18). We can ask ourselves this Advent if we have truly discerned our own mission. How has Jesus specifically sent me into the world to serve him?
- Prepare Your Heart: We help St. John the Baptist fulfill his mission when we immerse ourselves in Advent rather than skipping ahead to the Christmas celebrations. When we enjoy these last days of Advent, really relish them, Christmas will be so much brighter and more joyful. We could use this week to meditate on Christ’s divine mission and how he comes to reign in our hearts. We could meditate on Our Lady, remembering her holy pregnancy and how she and St. Joseph were likely on their journey to Bethlehem about a week before Christmas. Or we can meditate on the “O Antiphons” within the Divine Office that begins this Thursday. These antiphons are traditionally sung at Vespers and focus on a specific name of Christ: “O Wisdom,” “O Morning Star,” and so on. The focus of these meditations is to center our hearts on Christ and his coming in order to prepare the way to receive the gift of him. When our hearts are purified and prepared, they can receive the Holy Spirit, rejoice, and be strengthened for our unique missions.
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, please help me discern and embrace my mission. How are you sending me into the world to serve you, in ways both large and small? Help me to prepare my heart in order to fully embrace and become strong for my unique mission. Please help me to tune out all the distractions of this week and focus on you and your birth.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray about how you are sending me into the world and take one tangible step to fulfill my mission.
For Further Reflection: Learn more about the O Antiphons in this video by Paraclete Press: O Antiphons of Great Advent.
Written by Carey Boyzuck.