Beijing North Cathedral, Third Sunday of Advent


One of the themes of Advent is to “get ready” for Christ to be reborn in our hearts. In the gospel reading on the Third Sunday of Advent, John the Baptist quoted the Prophet Isaiah to “Make straight the way of the Lord” (John 1:23). What does it mean to prepare the way of the Lord?


In his homily at the Beijing North Cathedral’s young adult mass, Father Zhao Qinglong shared some practical advice. Focusing on the reading from St. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, Father Zhao invited us to reflect on these three points:


  • Rejoice always (1 Thes. 5:16). One way to experience joy is to show kindness others. No matter how small, an act of kindness is a way of activating our Christian spirit, which ultimately brings us joy. Simple things like saying hello to a neighbor or smiling at others are enough to do the trick.


  • Pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17). Father Zhao told the story about a man whose son was seriously ill. The father prayed for his son’s recovery, but in the end, the son died from the illness. The father became angry, complaining that prayer goes unanswered. He gradually worked through his bitterness, focused on what he did have in his life, and realized that God had given him enough to carry on. Prayer can take many forms, from praise to devotionals to expressing frustration. We just need to persevere, praying in whatever form feels right at the moment.


  • In all circumstances give thanks (1 Thes. 5:18). Gratitude is the antidote to envy and anxiety. When we reflect on what we already have, we recognize that God has given us everything we need. We align ourselves with God’s purpose for our lives by being thankful and working with our circumstances.


In many ways, these three virtues are different ways of saying the same thing. Joy, prayer, and gratitude all lead to peace. Joy brings us beyond selfishness, prayer connects us with our creator, and gratitude keeps us grounded in purpose and trust. By activating these graces in our lives, we prepare ourselves for Christ’s rebirth in our hearts, further propelling us along our journey of faith.