I remember the Christmases when I was growing up alongside my two brothers. We would turn the pages of the catalogue my mum kept at home; the winter edition was always filled with toys; and we all took turns going through those pages more in hope than in expectation. My middle brother always seemed to pick the coolest toy, and my parents always seemed to be amazed that we played as much with the boxes the toys came in as we did with the toys.

Future events always seem to bring an air of expectancy, sometimes to an extent that things can fall flat once the future event has happened. I think of school plays, where we worked really hard for weeks and then all of a sudden it was over; leaving a void no longer filled with the rehearsals and with what can seem like little or nothing to look forward to. It is one of the reasons the TV starts advertising holidays either on Christmas Day or Boxing Day, as we like to have something to look forward to.

Today’s liturgy opens with the words Rejoice in the Lord always, in Latin this was Gaudete in Domino semper, hence why this Sunday is called Gaudete Sunday. We are more than halfway through this mini penitential season of Advent and we are being reminded to look forward not just with expectancy, but as we are believers, we are called to look forward with certainty too. We know Christ will come again, because before He left us, He told us He would return. For us as Christians we should have no void after Christmas because we can rejoice in the Lord always.

In the first reading we have the message from Isaiah, God himself is coming to save you. Isaiah speaks of signs; the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will leap like a deer and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy. When we read this alongside the words Jesus asks John’s disciples to share with John, we can see that Jesus has given the signs foretold by Isaiah; and is now emphasising this to John. John, in his prison cell, is assured that his life’s work has not been in vain. Jesus is fulfilling the words of the prophets from long ago as well as informing all who would listen that John is the last of the great prophets; John is the messenger the other prophets spoke of who has heralded the arrival of the Messiah.

In the second reading we are urged by St James to be patient; to live in peace with one another and to model our patience on the prophets. The prophets were asked to tell people about the Messiah and only John the Baptist met Jesus in their lifetime.

As we continue our preparations for Christmas, are we preparing spiritually as well as for the material celebrations?

As Catholics are we taking advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to help us prepare spiritually?

As Christians are we aware of our neighbours who may be struggling? If so, are we reaching out to help them?

We all have a role to play. We are the hands that Jesus uses nowadays to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, support the homeless, visit the sick, the lonely and prisoners, comfort those who are grieving and help those with addictions; if we don’t do it, who will?

This is a time of year when we remember a family who had to travel to a place so busy that there was no room for a pregnant lady to give birth. That same family relied on the hospitality of a stranger to get them in out of the cold and provide shelter until the child was born. That same family became refugees as they fled their homeland which was ruled by a jealous tyrant who ordered the slaughter of innocent children. The child grew up and became the Saviour of the World.

Those people who helped the Holy Family probably never realised the significance of the mercy they showed that family in need; but the Holy Family knew the significance and billions of Christians down throughout the centuries are aware of the significance. Likewise, we do not know and may never find out how significant our mercy is to those who experience it, but we know that if we show others mercy then God will show us mercy.

The prayer used after Communion today asks God for this mercy as the priest says on our behalf “We implore your mercy, Lord, that this divine sustenance may cleanse us of our faults and prepare us for the coming feasts.” As Christians, we lead our lives like John the Baptist, waiting patiently while actively striving to prepare a way for Christ into our lives and into the lives of others; may the mercy we show to others help bring them and us closer to Jesus. Amen.

Further Reading

SIX HOLY HABITS Bishop Philip is inviting each one of us to develop six holy habits for this time of change and deep personal renewal, Advent is an ideal time to take on these habits: ·

  • to keep Sunday special, a family day, by attending Mass;
  • to spend 5 minutes a day in prayer using the Scriptures;
  • to do penance on Fridays, and to serve the poor and needy;
  • every fortnight to make a Holy Half Hour before the Blessed Sacrament;
  • to go to Confession once a month; and
  • to join a small group for formation, prayer and fellowship.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

CCC 30, 163, 301, 736, 1829, 1832, 2015, 2362: joy
CCC 227, 2613, 2665, 2772: patience
CCC 439, 547-550, 1751: Jesus performs messianic signs

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • Peace between all Nations.
  • Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
  • Those working to help others who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
  • Those in business who have the power to make decisions to help the poor.
  • All those working in Parishes and the Diocese on the ten-year plan
  • All of our young people preparing for the Sacraments.
  • Those attending our RCIA programme.
  • Those who may be embarrassed or too proud to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.