Sunday Church At Home – 3rd Sunday of Advent Cycle B

Third Sunday of Advent,
Cycle B.

Sunday Church at Home

during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic

Live in Joy.

The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:

Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

All reply: Amen

Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

All reply: Blessed be God for ever

Leader: We’re midway through the season of Advent, marking Gaudete Sunday, ‘a day for rejoicing.’ The reason for celebration is that the day of the Lord’s coming is very near. Joy is one of the signs of God’s kingdom; the coming of Christ brings that joy to save and refresh us in body and soul. 

Lighting of the third candle on the Advent wreath.

Leader: On this third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, we light the third candle, the rose-coloured candle on our advent wreath.  Pink or rose is a liturgical colour for joy. Today is a joyful celebration, a reminder that our time of preparation for Christmas is almost over.

We now light the third candle on the Advent wreath.

The first candle is the candle of hope; 

the second is the candle of faith;

the third candle today is the candle of joy.

This candle represents our joyful expectations of Christ’s birth and His return. We joyfully contemplate our passing from the darkness of sin into the fullness of His light and forgiveness. As we light this candle, we remember that Christ is the bringer of true and everlasting joy.

The third candle is lit. 

Leader: Loving God,

We thank you for the joy You bring us.

Through your Son we have found joy in living as Your children. 

Help us to prepare our hearts for this gift. 

We ask this through Christ our Lord. 

Amen.

If you have a Jesse Tree, the next 5 symbols can be placed. You can download “The Christmas Wreath and Jesse Tree: A Guide for Family Reflections 2020” from the parish Website and the parish App for the reflections.

Or you can use this:

Now let us reflect on the next 5 symbols on the Jesse tree to remind us of some of Jesus’ ancestors. We turn our hearts and minds with joyful expectation towards the birth and return of Jesus as we continue to fill the Jesse Tree.

The Harp of David: (pause)
The harp reminds us of the beautiful poetry and psalms that are attributed to David. Of his many achievements these are of the most enduring; recited at every mass, used in private and collective prayer, praise and devotion daily throughout the world. May our creativity also bring life to others. 

The Wisdom of Solomon: (pause)
Solomon is remembered for the great temple he built, the splendour of his court and for his administrative wisdom. Lord grant wisdom to all people in leadership in our church, especially Pope Francis, in governments, civil society, business and in every home.

Elijah and the Ravens: (pause)
The great prophet Elijah depended on God, and God used ravens to bring him food each morning and evening while Elijah hid by the brook in Cherith during the drought. We pray for all displaced people and poor people who are struggling to find enough to eat. Help us all to depend on You Lord for all our needs. 

Jonah and the Whale: (pause)
Jonah spent three days in the belly of whale and then returned to Gods purposes, while Jesus spent 3 days in the tomb after His death to atone for our sins. Thank you, Lord, that you are ever patient with us your children and that you rejoice over us when we return. 

Isaiah and Prophecy: (pause)
It is Isaiah who proclaimed the coming of the Messiah from the lineage of Jesse.  A message filled with hope and joy. Today we too find comfort, hope and joy in the birth of Christ and his promised return)

 

The service continues with the Liturgy of the Word.

LITURGY OF THE WORD

First Reading: Isaiah 61:1-2a.10-11

Introduction to the reading: The last part of the book of Isaiah contains the words of a prophet who preached after the Jews returned from exile in Babylon.  They found their temple destroyed and the city levelled.  In today’s reading, the prophet describes how God called him to encourage the people in this desperate time

A reading from the Book of Isaiah

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good tidings to the afflicted;
he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my soul shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring forth before all the nations.

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial psalm: Luke 1:46-48.49-50.53-54

R/: My soul shall exult in my God.

My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,

for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.

For behold, henceforth, all generations will call me blessed.

For he who is mighty has done great things for me

and holy is his name.

And his mercy is on those who fear him

from generation to generation.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent empty away.

He has helped his servant Israel,

in remembrance of his mercy.

R/: My soul shall exult in my God.

Second reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Introduction to the reading: Our second reading comes at the end of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians.  Just as a parent might give last-minute instructions as their child heads out the door, so Paul has a list of last-minute instructions for these people whom he loves.

A reading from the First Letter of St Paul to the Thessalonians

Brothers and sisters,
Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Do not quench the Spirit,
do not despise prophesying, but test everything;
hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil.

May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly;
and may your spirit and soul and body
be kept sound and blameless
at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

The Word of the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; he has sent me to preach good news to the poor.

Alleluia!

Gospel: John 1:6-8.19-28

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John 

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light,
that all might believe through him.
He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.

And this is the testimony of John,
when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem
to ask him, “Who are you?”
He confessed, he did not deny, but confessed,
“I am not the Christ.”

And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?”
He said, “I am not.”
“Are you the prophet?”
And he answered, “No.”
They said to him then, “Who are you?
Let us have an answer for those who sent us.
What do you say about yourself?”
He said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.
They asked him, “Then why are you baptising,
if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?”
John answered them, “I baptise with water;
but among you stands one whom you do not know,
even he who comes after me,
the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”

This took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan,
where John was baptising.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection on the Readings 

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

Homily 

Load shedding has started again. The power was cut at the church on Saturday morning just as Mass was starting. It is a reminder to make sure all emergency torches and flashlights are charged and in place for when the lights go out.

It reminds me of the story of a father who woke up on a dark, stormy night. A lightning flash and a massive crack of thunder woke him up. He reached out to turn on the bedside lamp and discovered that they had load shedding as well. He thought of his small son alone in his bedroom upstairs who might be scared of it all. So, he grabbed his emergency flashlight and rushed upstairs to check on the boy to see if he was all right. He was flashing the light around the room when the boy awakened, and said, with a startled cry, “Who’s there? Who’s in my room?” The father’s first thought was to flash his light in the face of the boy, but then he thought, “No. If I do that, I will frighten him all the more.” So, he turned the light on his own face. And the little boy said, “Oh, it’s you, Dad.” The father said, “Yes, it’s Dad. I’m just up here checking on things. Everything’s OK, so go on back to sleep.” And the little boy did.

 

That is what the Incarnation – the birth of Jesus – is all about: God’s shining the light in His own face so that you and I might know that everything really is OK.

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light,
that all might believe through him.
He was not the light but came to bear witness to the light.”

John the Baptiser is a major person in this time of Advent. John is the ultimate of Hebrew prophets. He was sent by God to prepare and point towards Jesus (Malachi 3:1). John’s main role is that of witness. It is very clearly stated that John is not the light, but a witness to the light. John doesn’t have any grand pretensions. He not a power-hungry person who lies and cheats just to have control over people and enrich himself. The Baptiser emphasises his lesser role to that of Christ. He is only a voice crying out in the wilderness to prepare for the coming of the light. When the religious authorities ask who he is and what authority he has to baptize, John the Baptiser answers with a series of: “I am not….” 

    • I am not the Christ.
    • I am not the prophet.
    • I am not Elijah.

He does not even describe himself in his own words, but by the words of the prophet Isaiah.

“I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness” 

He is not the lead character in this God-composed drama. He is just a witness to the one coming after him who will fulfil God’s promises. 

John was giving witness to the light, Jesus. When Christ comes, he will shine a light on our world. By that light we will be able to see our misplaced priorities that have taken us into shadows and darkness. 

We can pause here and ask ourselves: To what “lights” have I turned and been disappointed? To what distractions have I turned and been disappointed because it led me away from the purpose and meaning of my life? 

By the light of Jesus we can see a new way of living in union with God – a life of joy, peace and thanksgiving. We are also shown how to respond to the least by the light Jesus gives us in the example of his life.

John tells the Pharisees that they do not know the one who is coming, and indeed, who is already among them. 

“… but among you stands one whom you do not know,” 

 How’s that for an Advent reflection? How is Jesus among us already and we don’t recognize him? If we believe he has already come and is among us, then are we missing him by looking in the wrong places? We know his presence is sure and permanent, not like the tinsel and decorations of these weeks that will be tossed out or put in a box until next year.

Jesus is already with us, even when the signs seem to indicate he is absent. Where is he when we are not allowed to visit a loved one on a ventilator in an intensive care unit in hospital? Where is he at the long lines queueing for a grant which is not enough to buy food for the month? Where is he when we have to wait anxious days for the results after being tested? 

I hope this is not a cop out, but I’ll leave you to answer those and other challenging questions we have had recently. 

Here is a hint where to look for Christ among us from the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins:

” – for Christ plays in ten thousand places
 Lovely in limbs and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.”

– “As Kingfishers Catch Fire”

Just as John was a witness to Jesus’ coming, this Advent we ought to be witnesses to Christ already present in the world. The pandemic has shaken us up and confused the ideas we had about life. This Advent, let us refocus and to shift our attention to Christ and the kingdom of life he proclaimed. 

The pandemic does not seem to have slowed our consumption-driven culture very much. Shops and online stores are doing all they can to get us to buy more Christmas gifts. Think about what kind of gifts they are. Do they reflect the life and values of the One whose birth we celebrate in a couple of weeks?

These words from Isaiah helps us interpret who Jesus is. 

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good tidings to the afflicted;”

Jesus chooses not to fulfil the people’s expectation of a Messiah-king, with massive armies to defeat the Roman Empire. Instead, Jesus renounces force and power over people and to chose for himself the role of servant, and the powerlessness of the slave. Jesus identified himself with the least among us, to announce good news to the poor and liberty to those held captive in any way.

At Christmas we will celebrate Jesus’ first coming. But in the meantime, we already have the Light shining in our midst to show us how to live each day in communion with God, who directs us to Christ, already close to us in the poor and the needs of our neighbour.

“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks. 

From today’s Isaiah reading:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,

because God has anointed me and has sent me,

to being glad tidings to the poor.

Reflection:

We are invited to stand with God who wants an end to injustice and all that afflicts God’s creatures. This Advent text offers hope for personal and community transformation and assures us that God will work with us as we attempt to bring about what Isaiah envisioned and Christ came to fulfil – justice, healing and peace throughout the world.

So, we ask ourselves: 

  • What “glad tidings” do I hear for myself this Advent?
  • How can I share that good news with others?

Prayer of the Faithful 

Leader: God our Father, we offer our prayers with faith in the presence of Christ among us.

Reader:

We pray for Pope Francis: (pause) that he may lead us in our exploration of the infinite love of God.
LORD HEAR US

We for all public officials in South Africa: (pause)  that God will move them to recognize and take action to address the needs of the poor, the homeless, the elderly, and children so that no one will be forgotten in our communities.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for those who have suffered in this last year, who have lost much: (pause) that they may gain yet more from their loss.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for a renewal of prayer: (pause)  that we may recognize how God is communicating with us in every moment and allow our words and deeds to be a response to the love that God has shown us.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for all who are fighting the Coronavirus: (pause) that God will strengthen caregivers, inspire researchers, and guide those who will be distributing the vaccine.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for members of our families and friends who have died and those whose anniversaries occur about this time.
LORD HEAR US

Leader: Let us pray our prayer for Advent:

God of hope,
be with us on our Advent journey. 

Keep our hearts aflame with the hope of Christmas. 

Help us to welcome Christ into

our homes and situations,

into our hearts and into the hidden parts of our lives.

Help us to put you as the centre

and focus of our lives

for sometimes we are distracted 

by the snares of the world. 

God of majesty and might, 

help us to receive the gift of salvation 

which you offer us through the incarnation of Jesus. 

We ask this through Christ, our Lord. 

Amen.

Spiritual Communion

We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.

By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us. 

My Jesus,
I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment,
feed my soul at least spiritually.
I unite myself to you now as I do when I actually receive you.
Amen.

CONCLUDING RITE

Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us: 

All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

Leader: Gracious God,

your people look forward in hope

to the festival of our Saviour’s birth.

Give us the strength to reach that happy day of salvation

and to celebrate it with hearts full of joy.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Blessing

A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:

Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

All: Amen.