Saturday, December 13, 2008

Clothed and Adorned

(Gaudete Sunday, B)

In the midst of this season of “joyful expectation” we arrive at this especially joyful day, the third Sunday of Advent, traditionally called Gaudete Sunday. This name comes from traditional entrance antiphon for today, Gaudéte in Dómino semper: íterum dico, gaudéte. Dóminus enim prope est, which sings St. Paul’s imperative from the fourth chapter of Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice. The Lord is near!”

And that is exactly why we are invited into this mood of rejoicing today, because the Lord is near. But why should we be so happy about the arrival of the Lord in the coming feast of his Nativity? The second part of the reading we hear from the prophet Isaiah says it all: God “has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice.” Listen to force of these verbs! ‘Clothed me,’ ‘wrapped me,’ as Isaiah says, made beautiful as a bride. Who is he talking about? It’s us, brothers and sisters. For when the Son of God is born as one of us, in our humanity, yours and mine, our humanity is clothed with the blessing of God, wrapped in salvation, and restored to the original beauty God has meant for us all. That’s the good news of Christmas; not just the miracle of the Word made flesh, but all the miracles of our humanity being lifted up to God. As the priest says when he prepares the chalice, “Through the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” The Son of God becomes flesh in order to establish a union between our humanity and God. It is us who are given the opportunity of changing from water into wine, friends.

This is the great work of God of which our religion is meant to be a celebration. As St. Paul puts it in the second reading today: “May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it.” This is God’s passion and desire—to take on our humanity in the Incarnation, so as to lift us up to perfect holiness. Too often we think of holiness as something we have to accomplish by our own agonistic effort. No! As Paul says, it is God who will make us holy and prepare us for the end and goal and purpose of creation. By uniting himself to us in the Lord whose human birth we will soon celebrate, all of the holiness of God becomes available to our human nature.

So rejoice, brothers and sisters. And if this time of year finds us a little more tired or even a little more blue, be encouraged. The true Light to which John the Baptist witnessed is coming into the world. In whatever darkness we find in our own hearts or our own families or in our society, let us fix our gaze on this Light that is coming into the world. The mystery of Christmas teaches us that it is in these places of darkness that the Light wants to be born. This Light from Light—as we say in the Creed—is the hope for each of us. For God’s great work of uniting himself to us in Christ means that we will be clothed in comfort and wrapped in salvation.

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