"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near" (Entrance antiphon).
It is from this pressing invitation to rejoice, which characterizes today's liturgy, that the Third Sunday of Advent, traditionally called "Gaudete" Sunday, takes its name. This is actually the first word of today's Mass in Latin: "Gaudete", that is, rejoice, be glad because the Lord is near!
The Gospel text helps us to understand the reason for our joy, as it underscores the great mystery of salvation that takes place at Christmas. The Evangelist Matthew speaks to us of Jesus, "he who is to come" (Mt 11:3), who reveals himself as the awaited Messiah through his saving work: "the blind receive their sight and the lame walk ... the poor have good news preached to them" (Mt 11:5). He comes to console, to restore serenity and hope to the suffering, to those tired and discouraged in life.
There are still many, even in our day, who are enveloped in the darkness of ignorance and have not received the light of faith; many are lame and have difficulty in walking on the right paths; many are disappointed or discouraged; many are affected by the leprosy of sin and evil and are waiting to be saved. It is to all these that the "good news" of the Gospel, entrusted to the Christian community, is addressed. The Church, on the threshold of the third millennium, vigorously proclaims that Christ is the true liberator of man, the one who leads all humanity back to the paternal and merciful embrace of God.
"Be strong, fear not! Behold your God ... he will come and save you" (Is 35:4).
Dear brothers and sisters... I make my own the words of the prophet Isaiah proclaimed a few moments ago: "Be strong, fear not ... your God will come and save you!". These words are the wish I extend to all those God grants me to meet in every part of the world. They... [are] an invitation to courage, to perseverance in giving an account of the hope that is in each of you because of faith.
"Courage!". Do not be afraid of the difficulties you meet in proclaiming the Gospel. Sustained by the grace of the Lord, do not tire of being apostles of Christ... to continue the work of the new evangelization without hesitation.
"Be patient ... until the coming of the Lord" (Jas 5:7). With the message of joy characteristic of this "Gaudete" Sunday, the liturgy combines the invitation to have patience and to wait vigilantly for the coming of the Saviour, who is now close at hand.
In this regard we must know how to accept and face difficulties and adversity with a glad heart, while patiently waiting for the Saviour who comes. Eloquent is the example of the farmer that the Letter of St James offers us. He "waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain". "You also be patient", the Apostle continues, "establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand" (Jas 5:7-8).
Let us open our spirit to this invitation; let us go forward with joy towards the mystery of Christmas. May Mary, who silently and prayerfully awaited the Redeemer's birth, help us to make our hearts a dwelling place to receive him worthily.