Commentary on the Gospel of
Third Sunday of Advent
“Promise” is one of the major themes in Luke, who wrote the Gospel reading for today, and in the early chapters of his Gospel Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah, Simeon, and Anna all stress that God is keeping His promises, although it is actually only one single promise in various forms.
In the Old Testament God made a number of promises, all of them having some meaning that people could understand directly, but there was always a deeper meaning. At the end of the Garden story God promised very little that is clear (Gen 3:15), and there is also the promise to Noah after the flood (Gen 8:21--9:17), in appearance also somewhat limited, but then there are all the promises to Abraham, the first believer. Then came the prophets, whose foretellings had that same double nature of the direct applicability and then the far deeper meaning; today's first reading, from Zephanaiah, and the “psalm” (actually from Isaiah 12), are good examples of this. God's word eventually gave shape to Israel's hope for a Messiah and, as always, He delivered more than we expected, Jesus, the gift that never stops giving.
All the work of Christ points to the restoration of our lost innocence and a return to the Garden, the New Creation. He is not the Messiah people expected, or even the one that we actually desire in our own day (we prefer the old wine... Luke 5:39). God is always beyond us, always calling us further.
Christmas is a principal step in this same keeping of promises, of God being with His people (Immanuel), but in a way that goes far, far beyond what anyone had understood the Old Testament promises to mean, and in a way, a very important way, this is what Advent is about: waiting filled with holy hope, in a world of darkness and sin, for a savior, for the hand of God to intervene, just as He promised, and to change a world that we cannot.
This is why Mary's Magnificat at the Visitation is such a song of amazement and joy (Luke 1:46-55): “He has come to the aid of Israel his servant, mindful of His mercy – according to the promise he made to our ancestors, of his mercy to Abraham and his descendants forever.”
And this is the joy and amazement that we celebrate today as we see God's love coming to light... This is why we rejoice, why we celebrate “Gaudete” Sunday. If we truly have faith in God and His promises and place all our hope in Him and not in ourselves, if we seek to imitate the Father and the Son and the Spirit in being nothing but love focused beyond ourselves, we must be the Alleluia people we proclaim ourselves to be at the Easter Vigil, light in the darkness, pointing to the Eternal Light.
Be joy then, be love and hope for the world in the name of the Lord whom we await.