Reflection: Gaudete Sunday

By: Sister Anne Shepard | December 10, 2016

Sister Anne Shepard

We just heard parallel verses from Isaiah and Jesus.  Eight hundred years beforeJesus, Isaiah was indicating that God will strengthen weak hands and make feeble knees firmer.  It sounds like God will take care of our arthritis. 

He doesn't want us to be afraid because he will sharpen our vision, open our ears and help us leap like a deer.  Those who have trouble speaking will be able to sing joyfully. The late Australian monastic Verna Holyhead wrote: "Isaiah sings and dreams of the transformation that God's coming will work. Just as Israel came through the long wilderness wandering to enter the promised land, so God will again lead his people out of the desert of apathy and despair. Isaiah assures us that we must keep on dreaming -not as people of the night who wake to find our dreams are fleeting and insubstantial, but as dangerous daytime dreamers who act with open eyes, unsealed ears, and embodied resolve to make their dreams of the reign of God a reality. John the Baptist was a dangerous, practical dreamer."

When John asked if Jesus is the Messiah, the one Isaiah described, Jesus as much as said: What do you think?  Look at what I have done and then answer if I am the one.  I gave sight to someone who hadn't been able to see flowers.  I cured the lame and now square dancing and power walks are possible.  The leper cured could now kiss his wife.  Those troubled with mental anguish and spiritual isolation or emptiness are filled with compassionate healing.

And to make sure that John the dreamer wasn't completely disillusioned, Jesus speaks a beatitude Ablessed are you who take no offense at me. Jesus may have implied that John and his followers, the movers and shakers in the peace movement of the time, were looking for a triumphant savior.  Jesus was saying not so.  His mission was to be one who is faithful to a God who loves, who serves, who brings good news of mercy and healing, and who glorifies God with songs of praise.

Be patient we are told by St. James. I'm not the only one here tonight who could use a reminder from the second reading we will hear tomorrow. We are half way through Advent and we are given the imperative to be patient. St. James uses the analogy of having a farmer's patience. Neither Sister Patricia nor myself learned patient understanding by growing up on a farm or in rural America in our childhood or our early youth. However, we have learned it and continue to learn it by living in community. We are also invited to look to people in our lives who are models of patience. All of us have such models from among our friends, our community members, and our colleagues.  This season of joy, this season of expectation is enhanced with an attitude and practice of patience.


Sister Patricia Gamgort will profess her commitment to transfer her promise of stability.  She chose the line from the seventy second chapter of the Rule for the cover for the invitations and worship aid for tonight.  Patricia brings us new life and loving wisdom. Patricia models God's faithfulness in the Benedictine way of life. She, too, is a daytime practical dreamer. 

Patricia is known for her monastic heart, her prayerfulness and the works that she does. She is hard to keep up with because she is seen everywhere-learning in all three classes with our postulant, reading at the liturgy, visiting the residents in Dooley, doing dishes, picking pecans off the ground, doing office work for the development office, going to events in Kansas City, coordinating the vocation team, changing the look in the community room in St. Scholastica Hall and more.  If the expression Aby the fruits we will know them is true, we know that Patricia not only lives the good zeal, but Patricia is the good zeal of which Benedict speaks.   For over 60 years in the monastic way of life she prefers nothing to the love of Christ.  As expressed by many, Patricia is present wholeheartedly to the people she loves and serves.  Everyone counts.  Everyone deserves and receives from her love and respect. 

With your commitment to us on this night, Patricia, be assured we are closer to the realization that Christ will bring us all together to everlasting life.