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Gospel Reflection – 3rd Sunday of Advent

Dear sisters and brothers,

“Be happy”. These opening words from our second reading for this Sunday have remained with me since I pondered them, largely because they reflect what I’ve been reading in recent weeks. In Pope St. John Paul’s great work on what’s become known as the ‘Theology of the Body’ he speaks of true happiness being the fruit of our personal choice to love as God loves, loving him and each other, because we have come to know that such love is what we are made for. When we choose this for ourselves, even though it remains a challenge, we are choosing to aim and hope for true happiness. And as Advent and our readings today highlight for us, this is fully revealed in the person of Jesus.

As ever, the content of our readings takes us on a journey. In the Gospel we hear of John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets, preparing a way for the Lord with his words and with the Baptism that he offers. And who is he preparing the way for? It is the Messiah prophesied in our reading from Isaiah – Jesus himself – upon whom the Spirit of the Lord will descend to reveal the fullness of God’s all-encompassing love.

The second part of that reading, our psalm – our Lady’s Magnificat – and the second reading today all highlight our response. We are invited to rejoice as a bride welcomes her bridegroom, as we recognise that we, the Church, are married to God himself. We are invited to embrace that marriage through repentance, acknowledging where we have failed to love in an endeavour to learn to love more fully each and every day. And we are asked not to “suppress the Holy Spirit”, the Spirit who is the presence of God’s love in our lives, allowing him to take up more and more space in our hearts.

When we love as much as we can – the love for which God created us – then we are stepping into the happiness promised to us by God and will sense that happiness welling up more and more in our hearts, even when life is at its most challenging, because to love is to live in the power and wonder and beauty of God. So, let’s pray for ourselves and each other that, in the power and love of the Holy Spirit, we can “be happy”.

With every blessing,