3rd Sunday of Advent 2020 (B)
13th December 2020
St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
We are all preparing to celebrate a “meaningful” Christmas – Yes – that is the word the politicians have used – “meaningful” – full of meaning. I have no doubt that it is a genuine and sincere aspiration on their part. It is a recognition of something deeper than flashing lights and pudding is going on, and being marked when we gather as family and friends over these days that mark the birth of the Christ Child – the child who is the anointed one by God.
From later on next week the restrictions are being lifted a little more – to enable us to savour the very positive and upbeat atmosphere that these pre-Christmas days tend to generate. There is a mood of joy in the air – children are excited and full of anticipation. So, it is no surprise that it is this same sense of joy and anticipation that we find in to-day’s Mass.
While the readings come from the deep roots of our faith in history, they speak to us of how these moments of history speak to us today – their ongoing inspiration in our lives now. Our days of preparation and expectation enables us to draw deeply from the inspiration and blessing that Jesus, the light of God, beings to us and to the world continually.
The impact of the restrictions of these past months are well documented and it is clear that many have found it very testing and difficult to cope with. It is like it has found weaknesses, frailty and cracks in our emotional and spiritual lives. It is like a motorist not checking the basics regularly – we too can find ourselves breezing along mindlessly until tested.
Having a meaningful Christmas necessitates attending carefully to what we have gone through and experienced over the last eight or nine months. It has asked us questions about family, relationships, friendship, education, work, recreation and God too – basically all of our lives externally and internally. All these are concerns of a wholesome and rich spirituality. In secular terms we talk of a ‘work-life balance’. In other words, balance we need to live in a meaningful way.
The vision of the prophet Isaiah (1st Reading) was quoted by Jesus in the synagogue as He shared with his own people the nature of His mission. Each Christian seeks to make it our own – to enable us to be an instrument of grace and blessing for others. John the Baptist, the Gospel tells us, came as a witness for the light. He knew well those words from Isaiah – he too wishes to be an instrument of goodness in the hands of God. Mary’s Magnificat which form the Psalm for to-day is an exultation of the marvels the Lord has done through her life, through her motherhood of Jesus.
Each piece of the Word of God is joyful in its good news. But perhaps it is St. Paul, when writing to the Thessalonians, captures best the sense of joy that this Sunday of anticipation seeks to express in our liturgy to-day. “Be happy/joyful at all times, pray constantly and for all things give thanks to God”.
On December 17th Pope Francis will be 84 – we pray in thanksgiving for his health and leadership. He has brought a great sense of joy and hope to the world. The Joy of the Gospel was his first letter to the Church Universal. He is challenging us still. He is an inspiration for young and old – a real witness to living a ‘meaningful’ life and celebrating a meaningful Christmas.