Third Sunday of Advent 2019 – Let Nothing Disturb You
The Sunday posts for the Season of Advent have been focusing on some of the healthy challenges offered for our spiritual lives during these days leading up to Christmas. The First Sunday challenged us to stay awake and vigilant, to behold all that is being offered to us.
The Second Sunday included John the Baptist’s challenge to prepare the way of the Lord and to recognize the ways in which we, like Mary, are pregnant with expectation for the coming of the Messiah.
Today is Gaudete Sunday, a day for us to rejoice. The entrance antiphon is from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. The cause for rejoicing is related to the same reason Isaiah is able to prophesy, The desert shall rejoice and blossom.
We can rejoice in the nearness of the Lord. Isaiah goes on to stress that we should not fear or weaken. Be strong, do not fear.
That reminder to us to not give in to fear or weakness is an invaluable piece of advice for us, as we seek to grow in our spiritual lives. My experience in dealing with myself and with many others is that the invitation to move beyond fear is tremendously significant. It doesn’t matter what words we use to describe it: anxiety, fear, low self-confidence and trust, or a poor self-image.
So many threats to our security can cause us anxiety. I could be anxious about having to perform or prove myself in some way. I recall reading that medication for anxiety is one of the most common mental health needs in our culture. Even our culture itself can be the cause of anxiety for people.
Think of the many examples of innocent people caught in situations of war and violence. I recall having a professor once who spoke of the menacing portrait of reality.
When I am teaching imaginative prayer, I often start by having the individual or group pray with and share on Jesus calming the storm at sea, from Mark’s Gospel.
It doesn’t take long for people of whatever age or state of life to recognize how easily they can identify with the contrast between the peaceful sleep of Jesus in the stern and the frightened disciples being tossed about. Most of us can identify with that need to hear the soothing words of Jesus to be calm.
That sense of calm is a sign of the strength that inhabits us when we have that assurance of the nearness of the Lord. The Letter of James reminds us to be patient and strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.
The soothing words of Saint Teresa of Avila can be a helpful mantra for many of us. Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you, all things are passing, God is unchanging. Patience gains all; nothing is lacking to those who have God: God alone is sufficient. Or, as we hear God say through Isaiah: Do not be afraid, for I am with you always.