GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
The readings for the Third Sunday of Advent in Year B are a little surprising and they might take a little bit of explanation, because up to this point we have been working through the Gospel of Mark, that's what Year B is dedicated to, yet already on the third Sunday of this year we now switch over out of Mark into the Gospel of St. John.
So what's going on here?
This is something that is really important to stress.
If your recall, Mark is the shortest of the four Gospels, and so one of the things that had to be decided was that when Mark was allotted a year, 52 Sundays of readings, the Church made some decisions to supplement some of the aspects that are missing from Mark’s gospel with passages from other Gospels, and in particular with the Gospel of John.
So you'll notice that what we have on the third Sunday of Advent is from the opening chapter of John's Gospel, and then you will see later on in the year when we get into ordinary time, there will actually be four or more Sundays that are taken from the Gospel of John 6, the Bread of Life discourse.
So this is just part of Year B, Year B has a mix of Gospel readings.
It is not exclusively the Gospel of Mark, and you can actually see why in this case because Advent is slowly moving us toward the preparation for the birth and the coming of Christ, and yet as I mentioned in the video on the Second Sunday of Advent, Mark doesn't have an infancy narrative.
He doesn't tell us about the birth of Christ, so by definition the Church is going to have to supplement the readings for Advent and Christmas in Years B with passages from other Gospels.
It just stands to reason.
So in this case it is interesting, we get a section from the Gospel of John that continues our Advent focus on the figure of St. John the Baptist.
This is an interesting point to think about, that in terms of airtime, so to speak, after Jesus himself and the Blessed Virgin Mary, John the Baptist gets the most focus in terms of Sunday readings, Sunday Gospels, that are devoted to a particular person.
There aren’t multiple Sundays that are devoted, for example, to St. Peter or even to St. Joseph, but John the Baptist every year we get at least two Sundays in Advent that are focused on his life and on his mission.
This Sunday it is from the Gospel of John.
So let’s read this passage together and then we will try to unpack it...
SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
Paul here is trying to help the Thessalonians be prepared for the final advent, for the second coming of Jesus. So he gives a short, rapidfire series of moral exhortations that if you pause and look at them each carefully, they’re really challenging. And they’re also really crucial for Paul’s vision of what the Christian life looks like. So I would highlight the first three characteristics that he gives here—really fascinating—which is 1) continual joy, 2) constant prayer, and then 3) ceaseless thanksgiving.
So Paul says that Christians should be characterized by continual joy, ceaseless prayer, and continual thanksgiving. Now...is that your experience? It’s not how people think of you? Are you joyful all the time? Do you pray constantly? And do you give thanks no matter what happens, no matter what circumstance you find yourselves in? If you don’t, these are three virtues that Paul is challenging you and me (and also the Thessalonians) to live up to.
And in particular, I want to highlight here the one…the RSV has translated to pray constantly, but the Greek word is actually adialeiptōs
. It means pray without stopping, pray without ceasing. Now in my experience, a lot of Christians have difficulty praying at all, praying regularly...much less praying without ceasing. So we’ll come back to that in a minute. At the end of the video, we’ll kind of look at how that verse, that one verse “pray without ceasing”...if you look at the spiritual writers throughout the centuries—monastic writers like John Cassian, the desert fathers, Theresa of Avila, John of the Cross, especially John Cassian. He’s in the late 4th, early 5th century.
They really wrestled with this. Is it possible to pray without ceasing? And if so, how do you do it? Is it really possible to always rejoice? What about when tragedy strikes or pandemics hit or persecution breaks out or sickness invades my life or hurts someone I love? How can I rejoice always? How can I give thanks in every circumstance?
Well, Paul doesn’t give these as suggestions. They’re imperatives at the end of his letter to Thessalonica. And notice he says, he’s not just inviting you to do this. He says to the Thessalonians:
...this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
So it’s God’s will that you rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in every circumstance. So these are big challenges. Don’t let the brevity of Paul’s form—the form of the words—lead you to rush too quickly through the magnitude of what he’s calling Christians to in this passage here.
So he also says:
Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil.
And the upshot of why he’s giving these exhortations is holiness. He’s calling the Thessalonians to holiness so that they will be blameless at the coming—Greek word parousia—
of our Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, he’s giving them these exhortations to prepare them for the final advent of Jesus. You want to get ready for the final advent? Here’s what you do: 1) rejoice always. You want to get ready for the final advent of Jesus? Second thing you do: pray without ceasing. You want to get ready for the final advent of Christ? Third thing you do: give thanks in every circumstance.
For full access subscribe here >