What is your purpose in life? Have you ever really considered this question? If so, are you fulfilling your mission? Today’s readings are in part about vocation. In the First Reading of Isaiah 61, the author professes “the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me” and then goes on to list the duties that are given. Not simple tasks but messy, dirty, heartbreaking and gut-wrenching work: bringing the good news to the oppressed, binding up the brokenhearted, and proclaiming freedom to captives. These are the essence of the Gospel values but the labourers are usually few and yet, this writer rejoices in the duties and finds comfort therein.
The Psalm also echoes these sentiments–the beautiful reading from Luke 1–recognizes that the Mighty One has done great things and looks with favour upon the lowliness of the servant. The response is one of rejoicing in God. In the Second Reading from 1 Thessalonians 5, some advice is given to those about the Lord’s business: rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, and hold fast to what is good. The One who calls you to the work is faithful. Again, such comfort!
Finally in today’s Gospel John the Baptist’s mission is laid out clearly. This man sent from God, named John, had a purpose. He came to testify to the Light. John knew his unworthiness and his place in history. He had not grandiose ideas. He was the voice crying out in the wilderness–a voice that was rejected and slain for his mission. At first glance, perhaps this does not fit in with the other readings which emphasize the joy of working for the Lord. Yet how can the one who is making straight the way of the Lord not rejoice?
Today we light the pink candle of Joy. This Sunday is known as Gaudete Sunday in the Catholic Church. The first word in the Entrance Antiphon explains the meaning of the Latin word: Rejoice in the Lord always. Breaking away from the purple colour scheme, the sole pink candle is lit today on the Advent wreath. Maybe that gives another insight: the one whose purpose in life is to do the Lord’s work stands out, is different, and is pure joy.