The Third Sunday of advent is known as Gaudete Sunday. The Latin term Gaudete refers to the first word of the Entrance Antiphon, and means "Rejoice". Rose vestments are worn to emphasize our joy that Christmas is near, and we also light the rose candle on our Advent wreath.
Today the first reading and gospel reading at mass fit so beautifully together. The first reading is from Isaiah chapter 35. We read in verses 5 and 6 "then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing."
In St. Matthew's gospel from chapter 11, the disciples of John the Baptist are questioning Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?" Jesus replies by reference to Isaiah 35:5-6 “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”
Jesus' answer may seem cryptic to us, why doesn't He just answer the question Yes or No? We have to remember that Matthew was writing to a primarily Jewish audience who would have been very familiar with Isaiah and the Old Testament scriptures. By referring them back to Isaiah 35, which is predicting Israel's deliverance from foreigners, Jesus is very specifically answering them. By referring to the outward healings that Jesus is performing, He is fulfilling the prophecy that the Messiah would restore and heal. And all of these outward physical healings are pointing to the internal deliverance and healing from sin that Jesus can perform any time for everyone of us.
Through the sacrament of Reconciliation, we all our healed from the sins that weigh us down. Many parishes offer a lot of confession times during advent in addition to the regular Saturday times. Sacramental confession is such a gift of Jesus and His church. In it we are not only forgiven of our sins but we are given grace that helps us avoid sin in the future. If you haven't been to confession in a while, please "give yourself the gift" of a clean heart for the Christ child for this Christmas.