Third Sunday in Advent: rejoice for the ordinary miracles of our lives


By Sr. Joan McCorkell, OCD
Traditionally this Sunday is called Gaudete (Rejoice) and rose-colored vestments are worn at Mass. This title comes from the ancient Roman liturgy and is rooted in Paul’s words to the Philippians: I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord … who is very near” (Phil. 4:4, Jerusalem Bible translation).
The Gospel chosen for this Sunday’s reading (Matthew 11:2-11) is a curious one given our understanding of “Rejoice.” John the Baptist is in prison and he sends some of his followers to ask Jesus:
“Are you The One … or should we look for another?”
This question mirrors the feeling of the Matthean community at that time, for this Gospel was written about 80CE, which was about 45-plus years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Historically it was a time of rejection for the members of the Judeo Christian community who, while following the Gospel, were also clinging to their traditional Jewish practice. During this period, the Jewish congregation was no longer welcoming those who were following The Way of Jesus. Both groups were kin to each other and were experiencing unrest, pain and persecution.
A community in crisis results and thus the author of the Gospel invites his hearers to look hard and long at the miracles around them. He has Jesus answer the query of John’s disciples: The blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear and the Good News is being proclaimed.
Rejoice, then, and see the miracles around you.
For us, today, we are called to see and ponder with gratitude the ordinary miracles of our lives, those which we take for granted and those which catch our attention.
We rejoice when: we see a teenager and a parent or teacher having a real conversation face to face, when a person undergoing cancer treatment is told that the tumor has shrunk, when we know of a plentiful harvest or when a beautifully decorated homemade cake is presented for a birthday celebration, when a Christmas cactus blooms in October, when someone says “thank you” or “have a good day.”
Generally, it is all the small acts of kindness given and received which are our miracles and each can reveal that God is close and we need not look for another. Rejoice!
At this writing Nelson Mandela has just passed away and the news is filled with remembrances. I would like to recount one in particular as it relates to this writing. Someone asked what Mandela could have done with his life had he not spent 27 years at hard labor in prison. The response was that the time that seemingly was wasted was really a miracle. It was said that had he not been imprisoned, apartheid might still be the law in South Africa. Mandela and his friends used the time to reflect, plan and envision what the movement could accomplish with little bloodshed, and with forgiveness. It took all 27 years to birth the concept of freedom for all.
So at first sight, what may not look like a miracle can be one if we really can see.
Lastly, this weekend there will no doubt be a review of last year’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. A pain that grabbed at the gut of our country is a reminder that all we have is now, and that life is tentative. An antidote to this pain is indeed a rejoicing in the present moment, which is a seed with a miracle waiting to be nourished, harvested and received.
Jesus sent the followers of the imprisoned John back to him to tell him what they saw. Matthew encouraged his community with the same words.
May we, too, accept the encouragement that belief can offer through the small daily miracles of our lives and that we may be as Paul writes: Happy…for God indeed is very close.
(Sr. McCorkell is a member of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns at the Carmelite Monastery, Eldridge.)

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