This weekend brings us to the third Sunday of Advent, the one called “Gaudete Sunday” because the first Latin word of the Entrance Antiphon at Mass is “Gaudete,” meaning “Rejoice.” For that reason, the Church allows the priest to wear pink vestments at Mass if he wishes.
However in the gospel reading at this Sunday’s Mass we have a striking example of humility and total sincerity. It is on the part of Saint John the Baptist, a cousin of Our Lord’s. He has begun to preach down by the River Jordan near Jerusalem, and his forceful preaching makes many people think that he might be the promised Messiah, the Christ. So, with that suspicion in mind, they ask him: Who are you? He knows perfectly well what their question means. It means, “Are you Christ?” So he says, very plainly, “I am not the Christ,” thus telling them what they really want to know. When they press him for some positive ID after his negative ID, he says : I am the voice of one crying out in the desert. And what was he crying out? Make straight the way of the Lord! To make straight the way meant doing some road-repairing for the arrival of a very important person. So important, said John the Baptist, that he, John, was not even worthy to untie the shoes of the visitor. Through the years, a number of symbols have developed in religious art about Saint John the Baptist: the idea of a voice crying out or shouting; the idea of an index finger pointing (at Jesus, of course), the idea of tying and untying shoes, and the idea of the Lamb of God, which is what John called Jesus. Why a lamb? Because lambs are gentle animals which we don’t have to fear because they are not going to hurt anyone. And because the lamb was the principal animal of sacrifice in the Jewish liturgy, whose blood was thought of as taking away the sins of those who offered it.
I am told that somewhere in Europe there is a statue of Saint John the Baptist pointing to Our Lord. The statue is of bronze, but the index finger with which he is pointing is of solid gold because that finger is performing a crucially important and beneficial task to the entire human race. It is identifying the Savior of the world. This is a beautiful Advent image: the Redeemer is coming, and THAT MAN is he—the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. It is his birth that we are awaiting; it is his birth which will brighten the world so happily at Christmas. Therefore, Gaudete! Let us rejoice. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This Message was composed some years ago.