We hear in today’s Gospel that God's people are “filled with expectation.” The crowd gathered around John the Baptist believed that he might be the Messiah whom they’ve been waiting for to free them from the power of sin and Rome. Three times we hear their question: “What then should we do?”
The Messiah’s coming requires everyone to choose—to “repent”. That’s John’s message and it will be the message of Jesus too (Lk 3:3; 5:32; 24:47). “Repentance” as we have already heard this Advent, is translated from the Greek word, metanoia(literally, “change of mind”). However, repentance is a twofold change or turning. It is “turning” away from sin (Ezekiel 3:19; 18:30) and then turning toward God (Sir 17:20–21).
This “turning” is more than what a teacher might call an attitude adjustment. It means a radical life change. It requires “good fruits as evidence of our repentance” (Luke 3:8). That’s why John tells the crowds, the soldiers and tax collectors they must prove their faith through works of charity, hope, honesty, and justice.
In today’s Mass, each of us is called to stand in that crowd and hear the “good news” of John the Baptist’s call to repentance. In this mystagogy, i.e. this learning through the sacramental mysteries of our faith, we examine our lives, asking from our hearts as the crowd asked: “What should we do?” Our repentance springs not from fear of coming wrath (Luke 3:7–9) but from a joyful sense of the nearness of our saving God.
This theme resounds through today’s readings: “Rejoice! “. . . Gaudete! Rejoice ye! The Lord is near. So, on this Third Sunday of Advent the liturgical colour is rose signifying our joy at the news of the coming Messiah. Have no anxiety we are told in today’s Epistle. The Lord is coming amongst us. “Rejoice, in the Lord always, again I say: Rejoice.
In today’s First Reading, we hear echoes of the angel’s Annunciation to Blessed Mary. The prophet’s words are very close to the angel’s greeting (Luke 1:28–31). Mary is the Daughter Zion—the favoured one of God, told not to fear but to rejoice that the Lord is with her, “a mighty Saviour.”
She brings us joy. For in her the Messiah draws near to us, as John the Baptist had promised: “One mightier than I is coming.”