We are now in the third week of Advent, and lighting the third candle (the "Gaudete" candle) reminds us that we are to rejoice. The chorus of O Come Emmanuel calls us to "Rejoice, rejoice..." -- in Latin, "Gaude, gaude..." The brightening of the Advent purple to the color rose is a visual prompt to brighten our hearts at the anticipation of our savior's birth.
We know that we are awaiting Christ's birth, that this is the reason for our Christmas celebrations. But do we regularly meditate on the impact of that long-awaited birth on human history? Why is this cause to rejoice? Listen to the closing of the Magnificat's Morning Prayer for the third Sunday of Advent:
"O God of all good, you sent your Son to bring sight to the sightless, healing to the wounded, cleansing to the unclean, hearing to the deaf, life to those condemned to death. Make your Church a living proclamation of your rule, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen."
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We rejoice because He brings sight to the blind...
"And behold, two blind men sitting by the roadside, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent; but they cried out the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” And Jesus stopped and called them, saying, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they received their sight and followed him." (Matt. 20:30-34)
Jesus heals our blindness too, but don't you hear him asking first, "What is it that you want me to do?" Once we have acknowledged our spiritual blindness, we can then ask for and experience the compassion of our Lord. He opens our eyes, and now we can see. Where once we walked with darkness, now we have great light (Is. 9:2).
We rejoice because He brings healing to the wounded...
"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed." (Is. 53:5)
The all-powerful God who holds all creation in being is the same gentle physician who binds our wounds (Ps. 147:3). But before he came to heal our wounds, He experienced his own. Emmanuel, "God with us," took on our flesh and experienced our human pain. He saved us by dying on a tree.
We rejoice because He brings cleansing to the unclean...
“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Is. 6:5)
When we encounter our Lord we can so clearly see how covered in mire we are. It's the difference between brand new, bright white baseball uniforms and how they look after nine innings on a muddy field. We aren't worthy; we need cleansing. We say the beautiful words of the centurion before partaking the Eucharist: "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the words and my soul shall be healed" (Matt. 8:8). We should be filled with joy; his coming plunged us into the bath of his mercy.
We rejoice because He brings hearing to the deaf...
"And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech; and they besought him to lay his hand upon him. And taking him aside from the multitude privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, “Eph′phatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly." (Mark 7:32-35)
Be opened. I have tried to imagine what it would be like not to hear anything, then to feel Jesus' fingers in my ears, and then to be able to hear noises and voices for the first time. But the truth is, we are often deaf to the good noises and the right voices; we have often let ourselves be bombarded with lies and filled with meaningless noise to the point that we are spiritually deaf. Jesus comes to stick his fingers in our ears and silence the noise of the world so that we can hear the voice of truth.
We rejoice because He brings life to those condemned to die...
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10)
We were dead in our sin -- dead, dead -- like Lazarus in the tomb four days kind of death. It should not be lost on us the number of people who Christ brought back to life before his own resurrection. Not only does he open our eyes, unstop our ears, heal our wounds, wash us clean -- he brings us back to life. Our cause for rejoicing at the savior's birth is that we are now re-born to an abundant, eternal life in him.
Let all of that sink in...
...and then recall the last line from the Magnificat prayer: "Make your Church a living proclamation of your rule..." In other words, rejoice for all that He has done for you, and then proclaim those reasons for joy to the world in your everyday living.
Copyright 2016 Jessica Ptomey
About the Author
Jessica Ptomey is a Catholic convert, wife, mom, writer, communications scholar and professor, and homeschooler. She blogs at JessicaPtomey.com. She is the author of Home in the Church: Living an Embodied Catholic Faith, and her research in inter-faith dialogue has been published in the Journal of Communication and Religion (JCR). She is also the co-host, with her husband Mike, of The Catholic Reading Challenge podcast.