Third Sunday of Advent (B)
December 17, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.






O God, who see how your people
faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity,
enable us, we pray,
to attain the joys of so great a salvation
and to celebrate them always
with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading Is 61:1-2a,10-11 

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.

I rejoice heartily in the LORD,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice,
like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,
like a bride bedecked with her jewels.
As the earth brings forth its plants,
and a garden makes its growth spring up,
so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise
spring up before all the nations.

Responsorial Psalm Lk 1:46-48,49-50,53-54 

R/. My soul rejoices in my God.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed R/.

The Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation. R/.

He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy. R/.

Second Reading 1 Thess 5:16-24  

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit.
Do not despise prophetic utterances.
Test everything; retain what is good.
Refrain from every kind of evil.
May the God of peace make you perfectly holy
and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body,
be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful,
and he will also accomplish it.

Alleluia  Is 61:1 

Gospel Jn 1:6-8, 19-28  

A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.

And this is the testimony of John.
When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests
and Levites to him
to ask him, "Who are you?"
He admitted and did not deny it,
but admitted, "I am not the Christ."
So they asked him,
"What are you then? Are you Elijah?"
And he said, "I am not."
"Are you the Prophet?"
He answered, "No."

So they said to him,
"Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?
What do you have to say for yourself?"
He said:
"I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
'make straight the way of the Lord,'"

as Isaiah the prophet said."

Some Pharisees were also sent. 
They asked him,
"Why then do you baptize
if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?"
John answered them,
"I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie."
This happened in Bethany across the Jordan,
where John was baptizing.

Catena Nova

John the Baptist described himself as a voice crying out in a wilderness. He considered himself as nothing in comparison with the Word which he proclaimed. The Lord Jesus is the Word. In the beginning was the Word who is God’s Son, the eternal Word. If you took that Word away from him what could the voice that was John’s mean? Something like that is true for us as well. We are sent to help others understand the Word that is in Jesus. We want the voice we use to convey this Word to enter people’s hearts and set them on fire.  Think of the actual work of quickening, setting fire to, others’ hearts. What happens in the process? First, I have to have the Word in my mind and heart. Then I start to look for a way to place in an other's heart what is in mine. I want the sound of my voice, my speaking, to convey the Word to you. The sound of my speaking will die away but if the Word brought to you in my words has reached your heart then it has entered you even without leaving me (St. Augustine of Hippo).

The very Son of God,
older than the ages,
the invisible,
the incomprehensible,
the incorporeal,
the beginning of beginning,
the light of light,
the fountain of life and immortality,
the image of the archetype,
the immovable seal,
the perfect likeness,
the definition and word of the Father:
He it is who comes to His own image
and takes our nature for the good of our nature
and unites Himself to an intelligent soul
for the good of my soul,
to purify like by like.   (St Gregory Nazianzen)

Open wide your door to the One who comes.
Open your soul, throw open the depths of your heart
to see the riches of simplicity,
the treasures of peace,
the sweetness of grace.
Open your heart and run to meet
the Sun of eternal light
that illuminates all people. (St. Ambrose of Milan)

There are some souls on earth
Who search in vain for happiness,
But for me, it’s just the opposite.
Joy is in my heart.
This joy is not ephemeral.
I possess it forever.
Like the springtime rose,
It smiles at me every day.

When the blue Sky becomes somber
And begins to abandon me,
My joy is to stay in the shadow
To hide and humble myself.
My joy is the Holy Will
Of Jesus, my only love,
So I live without any fear.
I love the night as much as the day.

If sometimes I shed tears,
My joy is to hide them well.
Oh ! How many charms there are in suffering
When one knows how to hide it with flowers !
I truly want to suffer without saying so
That Jesus may be consoled.
My joy is to see him smile
When my heart is exiled…

Lord, I’m willing to live a long time more
If that is your desire.
I’d like to follow you to Heaven
If that would make you happy.
Love, that fire from the Homeland,
Never ceases to consume me.
What do life and death matter to me ?
Jesus, my joy, it’s to love you !” (St. Thérèse of Lisieux).

The evangelist John’s intention was to differentiate between the fleeting voice and the eternally unchanging Word. The one, he would suggest, was the morning star appearing at the dawning of the kingdom of heaven, while the other was the Sun of Justice coming in its wake. He distinguished the witness from the one to whom he testified, the messenger from him who sent him, the lamp burning in the night from the brilliant light that filled the whole world, the light that dispelled the darkness of death and sin from the entire human race. So then, the Lord’s forerunner was a human  being, not a god; whereas the Lord whom he preceded was both human and God. The forerunner was a man destined to be divinized by God’s grace, whereas the one he preceded was God by nature, who, through his desire to save and redeem us, lowered himself in order to assume our human nature (John Scotus Erigena).

The Advent mystery is the beginning of the end of all in us that is not yet Christ.  (Thomas Merton)
No, there is no way around it. We will have to listen to the voice of the one calling in the wilderness, even though he says: I am not the one. We will have to muster the patience of the true Advent person. The church is only the voice of one calling in the wilderness, a voice saying that the ultimate, the glorious kingdom of God, is yet to come, but only when he wills it and not when we would like it. We cannot disregard this voice simply because it comes out of the mouths of people; we cannot ignore the messenger of the church simply because he is not worthy to untie the shoestrings of his master, the one he is announcing, or because he is not able to call down fire from heaven the way Elijah did. It is simply still Advent. Even the church is still an Advent church, for we are still waiting for the one to come in revealed splendor of absolute divinity along with the eternal kingdom.  (Karl Rahner)



Greater Expectations

     While the figure of Ebenezer Scrooge is the most memorable of Dickens' characters to make an appearance this time of year, one might argue that Pip from Great Expectations deserves a place too among the moral object lessons the English novelist left us, and also relevant to Christmas.

          Not a rich miser but a poor boy, Pip had hopes of becoming rich, a "gentleman" as he put it.  Like Scrooge after his nighttime visitors had left, Pip too underwent a painful reevaluation of his priorities and expectations of what a "good life" is all about once he had realized his boyhood dreams of making something of himself.  

          Today's liturgy also gives us a glimpse into some great expectations of First Century Judeans living under Roman occupation.  And there was a lot of confusion over just what they should expect.   Everyone had a different opinion.  Some thought they should expect king -- like David.  Others a priest -- like Elijah.  Still others a prophet -- like Moses.  And no one expected a carpenter -- from Nazareth of all places.  Even John the Baptist, his witness, did not recognize him at first.  But John did know one thing when the priests came from Jerusalem to question him; he knew he was none of those things people expected: neither David’s successor, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet.  They must have been very disappointed – though I'm sure  some were relieved!

           Now you’d think God would be a little more obvious.  After all, the One who was coming into the world was called the light (G).  Some light!  There he was.  In front of everyone.  And no one could see him.  All John could say was, There is one among you whom you do not recognize (G).  Some witness -- to a light that conceals more than it reveals.

            Of course, the whole of this season is like that.  Think of the scenes about to fill our minds and hearts: an insignificant town in an obscure corner of the world, Bethlehem of Judaea; a lowly maiden whose husband can’t find lodging for his pregnant wife; a stark manger where the Child is born, his helpless cries piercing the night air.  There’s little light in all of this, nothing, really, to make us recognize One among us.  There almost seems to be a divine conspiracy, deliberately designed to hide the unfolding Mystery.  Sure, angels, shepherds and magi will come in recognition, but they convince few others. Soon the Child and his parents will flee into Egypt to hide from Herod, then move to Nazareth and into more obscurity.

            So how can such dim light, if not outright darkness, become apparent?  What can make us see that the Son of Mary is the Son of God; hear that the mute Child is the Word-made-flesh; know that the Hidden One is the Long-Expected Savior?  Well, faith alone can make us see such things, and hear them, and know him: the kind of faith that knows by believing, hears in silence, and sees in the dark.

            But the delegation that came to question John had a difficult time with such perception.  They came with too many ideas about how the Messiah should appear.  Sure, if they had seen a king’s crown, a priest’s vestments, a prophet’s mantle – fancy things that grab our attention —maybe then they would be satisfied. But they saw none of those things.  Nor did they expect the unexpected.  So they missed what they were looking for.  Because their vision was too narrow, apparently.

            Like ours often is, I'm afraid.  Looking for God in ways we expect.  Never thinking God might be where we never thought of looking: like in the lowly, the brokenhearted, the captive, the prisoner (cf. I)  Yet, that’s where the Bible says God is most likely to be found.  Just like in a Bethlehem stall, or in a Nazareth workshop, or in Bethany, across the Jordan, where John was baptizing (G).  While few noticed.

           It seems we have this fatal flaw of looking for God in all the wrong places, and all the wrong faces.  Look how dazzled we are by some of our secular saints, whom we practically treat as gods: athletes, rock stars, financiers. Their images flashing before us as though they were sacred icons.  Images that compete with the ones Scripture provides.

            Take a look at John the Baptist.  What do you see?  Not LeBron James.  But a man sent by God to testify to the light (G).  Or look at Mary.  What do you see?  Not Taylor Swift.  But a woman whom all ages to come shall call blessed (cf. RP)  Or look, finally, at Jesus.  What do you see?  Not Jeff Bezos.  But One on whom the Spirit of the Lord rests, because the Lord has anointed him (cf. I). 

            Mind you, like Pip and the "gentleman" Scrooge, we often set for ourselves "lesser expectations" and come to realize almost too late.  So we could all use a visit from Christmas spirits on occasion, and like Pip, learn the hard way that our supposed benefactors in life aren't who they seem to be — in fact, they might well make us paupers in body or spirit.

            Which goes to show the world of difference between the talent, fame and wealth of worldly heroes, and those whom God approves.  The former belong to the time being, the latter to the ages.  Yet, how many see it?  How many will open their eyes this Advent to see our true Salvation coming in poverty, with ears to hear the voice of one crying out in the wilderness (G), our spirits to rejoice in God our savior (cf. RP)?  Yet, this is the will of God for [us] in Christ Jesus who lives and reigns with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever.  Amen (cf. II).

Intercessions (Joe Milner; The Sunday Website)

For the Church: that we, who have been created in the image and likeness of God and destined for eternal life with God, may always find joy through our relationship with Christ.

For a joyful spirit: that as we recognize the gift of our relationships and the many blessings that God has given us, our hearts may be grateful, and our spirits filled with joy.

For all who are held captive whether as hostages, or by economic situations, lack of education, or by addiction: that God will free them and open new opportunities for life, growth, and wholeness.

For all who cannot find God: that the lights, hymns, and warm greetings of this season may be a doorway to finding God in all things and recognizing that God is with us.

For all who must wait: that God's loving presence will give strength and hope to those who are in isolation, awaiting surgery or the birth of a child, or who are caring for the sick or dying.

For a new appreciation of the created world: that we may find God in all things that God has created and rejoice that God is close to us this day.

For all public officials: that God will move them to recognize and take action to address the needs of the poor, the homeless, the elderly, and children so that no one will be forgotten in our communities.

For all who are suffering economically: that God will guide the unemployed to new work, bring relief to those who face losing their homes, and open new resources for those who do not have enough food.

For all who are ill: that God's healing love may renew and strengthen all who are ill or recovering from surgery.

For peace between nations and within cities: that God will turn hearts from violence and bring forth a new springtime of justice and peace in every land.

O God, most high and most near, you send glad tidings to the lowly, you hide not your face from the poor; those who dwell in darkness you call into the light. Take away our blindness, remove the hardness of our hearts, and form us into a humble people, that, at the advent of your Son, we may recognise him in our midst and find joy in his saving presence. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. (ICEL; 1998)

Offertory Antiphon


Offertory Motet (Orlando Gibbons; 1583–1625)


This is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who art thou?" And he confessed and denied not, and said plainly, "I am not the Christ." And they asked him, "What art thou then? Art thou Elias?" And he said, "I am not." "Art thou the prophet?" And he answered, "No." Then said they unto him, "What art thou? that we may give an answer unto them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?" And he said, "I am the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord."

Comunion Antiphon


Closing Hymn(Lyrics by William and Annabeth Gay)


Each winter as the year grows older,
We each grow older too.
The chill sets in a little colder;
The verities we knew
Seem shaken and untrue.

When race and class cry out for treason,
When sirens call for war,
They overshout the voice of reason
And scream till we ignore
All we held dear before.

Yet I believe beyond believing,
That life can spring from death:
That growth can flower from our grieving;
That we can catch our breath
And turn transfixed by faith.

So even as the sun is turning
To journey to the north,
The living flame, in secret burning,
Can kindle on the earth
And bring God's love to birth.

O Child of ecstasy and sorrows,
O Prince of peace and pain,
Brighten today's world by tomorrow's,
Renew our lives again;
Lord Jesus, come and reign!