The Third Sunday of Advent; Gaudete Sunday
Do we have to attend Mass for Sunday and Christmas as well?
A Note From Fr. Michael
Before taking a moment to reflect on the deep meaning of this Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday, I would like to clear up some confusion concerning Mass attendance. This year Christmas Day falls right after Sunday of the Fourth Week of Advent. Some of us might be wondering if we have the obligation to attend two Masses; one for Sunday and another Mass for Christmas. The answer is yes, we have two days of obligation that follow one another: Sunday, the Lord’s Day followed by the Solemnity of Christmas. We still need to keep the Lord’s Day holy by attending Mass for Sunday even though we will be back in church for Christmas Mass. The Masses that are offered on Saturday evening, December 23, and Sunday morning, December 24 fulfill the Sunday precept. The Masses that are offered in the evening of December 24 and the morning of December 25 fulfill the precept for Christmas Day. Some of us might want to attend one Mass for both Sunday and Christmas, however this would not fulfill our obligations. Let’s be generous with our time in worshipping the Lord. God has greatly blessed each of us; let’s not fail in giving back to Him the adoration and thanks that He deserves. In speaking of our obligation to attend Mass, I absolutely find it distasteful to use the word “obligation”; rather we should consider Mass attendance our greatest privilege and joy. It would be great if we could change our way of thinking from “Mass obligation” to “Mass privilege”.
Today we celebrate the Third Sunday of Advent when we light the rose colored candle of the Ad-vent wreath and bring out the rose colored vestments. Rose is the liturgical color that symbolizes a reserved joy as opposed to white or gold which symbolize complete joy, gladness and celebration. We are joyful on this Third Sunday of Advent because Christmas is quickly drawing near and yet we still need to continue the work of preparing for the coming of the Lord by conversion of heart, prayer, good works and the celebration of the sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). This Third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete (rejoice) Sunday because of the entrance antiphon for today’s Mass that says: Re-joice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.” (Phil. 4: 4 – 5); in the Responsorial Psalm we say along with the Blessed Virgin Mary, “My soul proclaims the great-ness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”, (Luke 1: 46 – 47); and in the second reading St. Paul says to us, “Brothers and sisters: Rejoice always”, (1 Thes 5:16).
In the first Reading for this Sunday of Advent the Prophet Isaiah describes the Messiah to us in these words: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me, he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God” (Isaiah 61:1 – 2). We need the Lord Jesus to come and pro-claim to our poor spirits the Good News of the Gospel, to heal our broken hearts, and to set us free from all our bondage by breathing into us the gift of the Holy Spirit. In today’s Gospel St. John the Baptistintroduces us to the Messiah in these words: “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie”, (John 1: 26 – 27). The Baptist makes it clear that even though the crowd by the river Jordan does not recognize him as yet, Jesus is in their midst.
As we prepare to celebrate the coming of Jesus at Christmas and ready ourselves for his glorious coming at the end of time, it’s important to remember that he is with us in the here and now and in every situation and circumstance of life. Before Jesus returned to His heavenly Father on Ascension Thursday He promised that “I am with you always, until the end of the age”. The challenge for us is to recognize Jesus among us. Just like the crowd in today’s Gospel that did not recognize Jesus among them, so often we do not perceive our Lord’s presence with us. Jesus is present to us in so many ways. First and foremost He is present to us in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and our reception of His Body and Blood and he re-mains with us in the tabernacle night and day. He is present to us when we come together as His disciples to pray and listen to His Word, He is present to us in our neighbor, most espe-cially in those who are needy or suffering in any way. He is also present in all the adverse sit-uations of our life: sickness, failure, separation from loved ones, poverty, weakness, tempta-tion and persecution. The special grace we need to ask from God on this joyful Sunday of Advent is the grace to be able to see Jesus present to us in these situations and circumstances. An amazing thing happens when we recognize Jesus in the midst of our sufferings and difficulties: we find the strength to endure and a joy that cannot be overcome. This is what we celebrate on this Third Sunday of Advent as we light the rose colored candle and see the rose colored vestments at Mass. In the midst of trial and hardship there is cause for rejoicing because the Lord is in our midst.
Have a prayerful and peaceful week as you get ready for the coming of the Lord.
Mass Times for Next Sunday and Christmas Day
Saturday, December 23: 4:30pm at OLM and 5:00pm at STB. (These Masses fulfill the Sunday Privilege).
Sunday, December 24: 8:00am and 10:30am at OLM and 9:00am at STB. (These morning Masses fulfill the Sunday Privilege).
Christmas Vigil Masses, Sunday Evening December 24: 4:30pm, 7:30pm at OLM and 5:00pm at STB. (These evening Masses fulfill the Christmas Privilege).
Christmas Day Masses, December 25: 12:00am Midnight, 8:30am and 10:30am at OLM