The Joy of Advent
Rejoice in the Lord always!
3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A
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 waiting (repentance, conversion, renewal). And so today, the color purple is blended with white Christmas joy turning it to Rose Pink.
We’ve started Advent seeking the true face of Jesus. We’ve asked “who” He is as the Son of God and how we could relate to this Messiah. Are we ready to welcome Him in our hearts with joy or just like what St. John said in the Gospel as if doubtful, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” John was in prison at this point and was on trial under King Herod and so we could understand his doubts, worries and anxieties. Just like most of us during this time of the year, we are so preoccupied with a lot of things with seemingly endless responsibilities and so we doubt if God was even there in the midst of it all. Is the one, who is to come again, making His presence felt in my daily concerns and “busy-ness” or am I to look for another – things, persons, places other than Jesus?
Nevertheless, the desire to SEE the TRUE CHRIST, who is our joy is ALWAYS in our hearts. Our God wants all of us to have joy, to have joyful 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 you all 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. We need to straighten out our old “crooked” selves and in humility present ourselves to God, who alone can forgive us without reservations and so lead us to true joy and happiness. Come to confession if you so desire to seek and understand Him deeply.
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 Second Reading reminds us that as opposed to worrying and complaining, we should rather be patient and more importantly, to be grateful to what God has provided us. There is no point in mourning and being anxious unless we HOPE. Our prayers go out to all the families who have lost their love ones this year especially during the holidays. May they remain hopeful amidst the tragedy.
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.
Allow me to end this homily with this story:
A number of years ago, a young college student was working as an intern at his college’s Museum of Natural History. One day while working at the cash register in the gift shop, he saw an elderly couple come in with a little girl in a wheelchair. As he looked more closely at this girl, he saw that she was kind of perched on her chair. The student realized that she had no arms or legs, just a head, neck and torso. She was wearing a little white dress with red polka dots. As the couple wheeled her up to the checkout counter, he turned his head toward the girl and gave her a wink. Meanwhile, he took the money from her grandparents and looked back at the girl, who was giving him the cutest and the largest smile he had ever seen. All of a sudden, her handicap was gone, and all that the college student saw was this beautiful girl, whose smile just melted him and almost instantly gave him a completely new sense of what life is all about. She took him from being an unhappy college student and brought him into her world - a world of smiles, love and warmth. (Fr. James Farfaglia)
With the lighting of the rose candle, the third of the Advent Wreath, among the purple candles, and the priest’s wearing the rose vestments, we are reminded that we are called to live with joy in our world of sorrows and pain.
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.