Meditation and Reflection

Third Sunday of Advent: rejoice in the recognition of Jesus


Today is Gaudete Sunday: into the season of waiting, preparing and expecting, we inject a note of delight and good cheer: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand‘ (Phil 4:4f). Rejoice always? Easier said than done. How do you rejoice when your children are hacked to pieces, your wife raped and sold into slavery, and you yourself are about to be crucified or beheaded or both? How do you rejoice when the news is all of tales told by idiots, full of Trump and Fury, signifying nothing? How do you rejoice when politicians reduce the Faith to their transient apprehension of ‘British values‘, subsuming centuries of religious liberty to a new state moral othrodoxy? How do you rejoice when self-appointed commissions seek to destroy the very foundations of that liberty in the name enlightenment, tolerance and equality?

How do you rejoice when shepherds of the sheep lead some of their flock to wander over the nearest cliff, and then fail to realise that some of those who remain are really wolves, devouring their prey in the morning, and dividing the spoil  in the evening? In an age where the discernment of spirits (1Cor 12:10) has become a morally dangerous pursuit, we tremble to identify the presence of the judgment of God in human activity, preferring instead His absence, or, better still, His movements of non-judgmental orientations and directions: all is love, peace, harmony and reconciliation.

Ye shall know them by their fruits‘ (Mt 7:16). The presence or the absence of the Holy Spirit is the gulf that exists between God and the Devil, between angels and demons. But who believes in the Devil anymore? Is all that is of the world and the flesh so antithetical to the work of the Spirit that there can be no cohabitation, integration or accommodation? Can the consolation of God not come from the desolation of man? How do we discern the truths of the prophet from the deceptions of the false prophet when what we really seek is affirmation of our life choices? How do we discern the wisdom of Jesus from another Jesus when moral norms fluctuate and new theological understandings help us to recognise different apprehensions of good and virtue? How do we discern between the spirits of depression and the spirits euphoria when we have reduced discernment to the force of our feelings?

The Third Sunday in Advent.
The Collect.

O LORD Jesu Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee; Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Epistle. 1 Cor. 4. 1.

LET a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

The Gospel. St. Matth. 11. 2.

NOW when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.