Gospel Reflections

3rd Sunday of Advent

John 1:6-8,19-28

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Terry Davis

Published: December 14, 2014


I am reminded of a hauntingly beautiful song, “How can I keep from singing?” that seems at home on this 3rd Sunday of Advent, this Gaudete Sunday, this day deep into the dark of December. Daily reports have delivered a rash of terrible news and disturbing displays of human brutality. We shudder at continued racism and its devastating disregard for human dignity. War never seems to end and terror sits waiting at our doorstep. The natural, even understandable, reaction is to reach toward the dim comfort of small expectations and limited hope. There seem to be plenty of reasons to stop singing, to retreat into numb silence in the face of human and natural suffering.

But this Sunday’s readings urge us to a very different response in the face of suffering. We are called to look it in the eye, come face-to-face with the frightening dark and to bear witness to the suffering of our people. We cannot turn away, cannot choose the numbing of our senses so that the pain will diminish. This day, these readings and the song, yes the song, call us to reach for, to gather and to offer hope when the world turns the darkest. Advent teaches us that the dark is a place where we meet God. In those frightening times that strip us of security, God is close, very close.

And it is God’s closeness in our suffering that causes us to rejoice even when there seems little that is joyful, little that is hopeful and so very much that concerns us. It is precisely in those times of vulnerability that God’s presence is most tangible.

This Third Sunday of Advent has traditionally been known as “Gaudete” Sunday from the Latin word for rejoice. It always arrives when we are deep into December, into the lengthening reach of winter cold in the Northern Hemisphere as the earth leans toward its darkest and shortest days. And it is just as the evening deepens that we are called to rejoice. Yes, rejoice and, yes, in the dark. This Sunday, this rose-colored day insists that we do more than endure the dark - far more and that we do it when much is rimmed in shadow and tinged with pain. We are called and strengthened to rejoice in the very dark that leads us to trust the God who is always with us, always drawing near to us, no matter how much the dark would claim otherwise.

“How can I keep from singing?”

My life goes on in endless song above earth's lamentations,
I hear the real, though far-off hymn that hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife I hear its music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing?

Oh though the tempest loudly roars, I hear the truth, it liveth.
Oh though the darkness 'round me close, Songs in the night it giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm, While to that rock I'm clinging.
Since love is lord of heaven and earth, How can I keep from singing?

 

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