The Third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is Latin for “Rejoice!”, and this is the Sunday we light the more festive rose candle.
Long periods of preparation can be draining. If you've ever prepared a field for a crop, or a house for painting, you know that preparatory work can be tedious and discouraging. Jobs like stripping paint aren't the “real” work, so aren't directly rewarding, but they have to be done if the final job is going to succeed.
It must have felt that way for the Israelites. They were promised a Redeemer, and as more prophecies came in a clearer picture of Him emerged. This wouldn't just be the Savior of Israel, this would be the Savior of the whole world! What a high and noble calling! But as the centuries dragged on, and the Jewish people suffered many setbacks, it probably got discouraging.
Advent can feel like that for us, too. It seems to be all about discipline and preparation, and can feel like it drags on and on (especially for children!) It's like spiritual paint-scraping: no fun at all, and just when you think you're making progress, you spot another patch that needs cleaning.
This is why the Church says to take a break. The Third Sunday of Advent reminds us to rejoice – to step back, relax, and refocus on the goal. Spiritual life isn't only about discipline and reform. Those things are necessary, but only as preparation for The Main Event: the redemption, joy, the full spiritual life that Christmas celebrates. The cheery rose candle brightens the array of somber purple. The halfway point is passed, and our vigil will soon be at an end.
From this point on, the burning rose candle will remind us that we've turned the corner and the goal is in sight. Like runners in a race coming within sight of the goal, let's not slow down, or stumble, or give up. Let's redouble our efforts – the very image used in Scripture several places, like Hebrews 12:1. Let's get even more serious about cleaning spiritual house in preparation for the Coming Lord.
The most significant way to do this is to accept the grace of the Sacrament of Confession. Don't pass up this opportunity for grace! Rejoice, your sins can be forgiven in Christ!
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