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Ingredients of JOY
Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda Aftermath
Pope Francis for the Philippines
3rd Sunday of Advent - Gaudete Sunday
Rejoice in the Lord always, REJOICE! These are the resounding words we hear today as we celebrate Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of Rejoicing: from the Latin word “Gaudete” meaning, “Rejoice.” The Catholic Church is wise enough to give us a hint of what is to come; the celebration of JOY in Christmas while still keeping the somber spirit of preparation and repentance. And so today, the color purple is blended with white Christmas joy turning it to Rose Pink.
But is there a reason for rejoicing? Typhoon Haiyan cost the lives of thousands in the Philippines later this year, should we be rejoicing? Terrible school shooting incidences one after another, should we be rejoicing? Present happenings do not seem to bring us to rejoicing. It would even be appropriate to say at this point that instead of rejoicing, we should rather be sad, afraid, in distress and mourning.
Nevertheless, the desire for joy is ALWAYS in our hearts. Though at times, it may be elusive or evasive as it is beyond us, we look forward to achieve it. Let us not, however, confuse JOY with PLEASURE. Joy is ENDURING while pleasure is FLEETING; joy comes with BEING while pleasure comes with HAVING or DOING; joy is achieved FROM WITHIN while pleasure is achieved FROM WITHOUT; more importantly, joy gives us TRUE HAPPINESS while pleasure leaves us CRAVING FOR MORE.
Our God wants all of us to have joy, to be joyful as we live our lives. This Sunday as we celebrate the 3rd Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, the theme on rejoicing gives us three important recommendations:
1. To experience in our lives that the Lord indeed is near. This is an ingredient of joy that we always need to bear in mind. As we remind ourselves of Christ’s coming, we should also remind ourselves that He is WITHIN US no matter what. He LIVES and DWELLS in our souls as baptized believers through sanctifying grace. We receive such grace from the moment of our baptism and will continue to receive it through the sacraments. A life of sanctifying grace is a life of God within us, which can only be broken when we commit mortal sin.
Last Sunday, I reminded our parishioners about going to confession this advent season. In doing so, we could be like St. John the Baptist, who went to the desert to pray and fast to be ready to prepare the way of the Lord. Going to confession is like a “desert experience” – a moment and time spent with God as we foster a better relationship with Him. Once we get to that experience, we achieve the true spirit of JOY.
2. As opposed to being anxious and worried, we are called to be patient and grateful. Worries and anxieties are part of human tendencies. We worry about a lot of things. Will there be food served at table every day? Will I be able to earn my first million at a certain period of time? Will I be able to have a decent early retirement? The Letter of James in the 2nd Reading, reminds us that as opposed to worrying, we should patient and grateful. There is no point in mourning and being anxious unless we HOPE.
As we all know, Advent is not just preparing for Christmas. It is also fixing our gaze on the second coming of Christ. The Gospel of the first two Advent weeks graphically illustrates the signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God, the end of the world. Perhaps we ask ourselves: Why did Christ not mention a specific date and time for his return? Wouldn’t it be much easier for us? Wouldn’t it assure him of more followers? I am sure if it is announced that Jesus would return tomorrow, our churches will be overflowing with people. Perhaps you would not even go home anymore after this Mass.
In his wisdom, the Lord did not give the exact moment because doing so will make us vigilant for the time and not for the person of Jesus Christ. It will make us anticipate the moment and not the person coming at that moment. Our focus will be on our watches and calendars instead of watching out and waiting for God. We are not ruled by fate or time. We are ruled by Christ!
3. The third recommendation is to share God's tremendous love to others. In other words, to be joyful through generosity and charity. The more we seek pleasure in possessions, prestige, promiscuity, popularity, pot, etc. we often find the next day that we have less joy than ever. As Mother Teresa points it wisely, JOY is JOY when J-who should be FIRST stands for JESUS; O-stands for OTHERS; and Y-stands for YOU. In this acronym, we become last. The world doesn’t have to revolve around us but must revolve around Christ first and others next. How? Generosity and charity. Now it makes perfect sense as in a song “GIVE LOVE in CHRISTMAS DAY!”
Allow me to end this homily with this story:
A few years ago The Reader’s Digest reported the story of an attractive and successful business woman who noticed a small lump behind her ear as she was brushing her hair one morning. As the days went on, she noticed that the lump was getting larger, so she decided to see her doctor. Her worst fears were confirmed. The doctor told her that the lump was a large tumor that would require immediate surgery. When she awoke following the surgery, she found her entire head wrapped like that of a mummy. She could see herself in a mirror only through two tiny holes cut into the wrapping. When the bandages were removed after a week she was shocked to see that her once attractive features had become disfigured by a facial paralysis caused perhaps by damage to facial nerves during the removal of the tumor. Standing before the mirror, she told herself that she had to make a choice whether to laugh or to cry. She decided to laugh. Although the various therapies tried were unsuccessful in alleviating the facial paralysis, the decision to laugh in the face of adversity allowed this woman to carry on with her life with joy, giving encouragement to those with similar paralysis.
Joy as it is gift from God is also a choice. We have to choose to be joyful and as recommended in today’s readings, we can achieve them through sanctifying grace – a share in the divine life with God; prayer as oppose to worries and anxieties; and finally, generosity and charity, which could bring us true joy than mere pleasure.
BE JOYFUL FOR THE LORD IS NEAR!