Third Sunday of Advent: Rejoice! (Reflection)

Third Sunday of Advent – Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday

Zephaniah 3.14-15, Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6

Philippians 4.4-7, Luke 3.10-18

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Pope Francis at today’s Mass for Gaudete Sunday, via Catholic.org. The color is rose, not pink! Real men wear rose…

“Rejoice in the Lord always!”[1] Rejoice! During this Advent season, we have so many things for which we can rejoice: family, friends, celebrations, but do we remember the reason for which we should truly be rejoicing? My friends, that reason is, of course, Jesus Christ. As we proceed through Advent, we prepare for His coming, readying our hearts for the Nativity of our Lord. What a beautiful time of year this is!

At the same time, I think it can also be very difficult to rejoice, or at least to take the time away from our busy schedule in order to rejoice. Those same items I mentioned above for which we are joyful can hinder our focus on the real reason for joy. Preparing for family visits might have us running errands all over the place, or Christmas lists might have us focused on shopping. Or perhaps more serious concerns keep us from rejoicing… Maybe we have to choose between paying an electric bill and buying gifts. Perhaps there has been the death of a loved one. Or maybe the winter weather has put us in a depressed mood, despite the much needed rain and snow!

So how are we to rejoice then in this season? How do we reorient ourselves towards the true reason for rejoicing as we look expectantly for the coming of our Savior?

Well, one practical thing we can do is turn to others. In this season of Advent and the coming season of Christmas, it is important to remember those who are missing something, whether they are missing dry clothes, a hot meal, or the pleasure of family and friends. The Gospel today tells us that “whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none.  And whoever has food should do likewise.”[2] We shouldn’t leave Church and act as if nothing we do here has changed us. We must go out into the world and be a force for good, allowing the Lord to work through us in our words and deeds, showing those around us that “the Lord is near”[3] and he is ever-faithful in His promise to remain with us all the days of our lives.

There is another way we can reorient ourselves towards joy, more so than any of the other things I have mentioned thus far: simply turning to the Lord Himself. After all, how can we show others that the Lord is near if we do not first believe and act on it ourselves? For no matter what is going on in our lives, in the moments in which we rejoice or in the moments in which we might despair, we must recognize that the reason for our joy never ceases, as God has “a single motive for choosing”[4] us, for coming to us in the child Jesus, and that is His never-ending love for us to bring forth our salvation through that small child in the manger who will one day hang on the cross.

By Idobi (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

By Idobi (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

A voice crying out from the wilderness reminds us of this love, and the presence of the Lord in our lives. We hear it in today’s Gospel: while John was in the womb of Elizabeth, he foretold the coming of the Lord; now on the banks of the Jordan, he foretells the coming of Jesus once again, proclaiming that Christ will “baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”[5] In this baptism with the Holy Spirit, we are made a new creation and are truly given a reason to rejoice: we have new life in Christ and “can cry out with joy and gladness.”[6] He never ceases to call us, and in our baptism we find true life and happiness.[7]

Finally, not only do we have this enduring promise, but He makes it easier to attain joy and hope than we can possibly imagine: He comes to us, right here and right now. We don’t have to travel far, we don’t have to do anything complicated, we just need to turn to His love and mercy in the sacraments. In the Sacraments, “the Lord is in our midst”; in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, he renews us in His mercy, and in the Eucharist, He will renew us in His love. We only need to have confidence in Him.[8] Take advantage of the treasures He has given us in the faith, these tangible and real signs that echo the voice of John the Baptist as he cries out to us proclaiming the presence of the Lord.

My dear friends, in this season of Advent, on this Gaudete Sunday, we have a true reason for joy. As we look to His coming at Christmas, we find a hope and peace that no thing or person in this world can satisfy. Let us enter His infinite love, becoming signs of that love ourselves, and “Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.”[9]


 

  • [1] Phil. 4.4
  • [2] Luke 3.11
  • [3] Phil. 4.5
  • [4] CCC 218
  • [5] Luke 3.16
  • [6] Responsorial Psalm Verse
  • [7] CCC 30
  • [8] Zeph. 3.17
  • [9] Responsorial Psalm Verse

Note: I am back after exams and the end of the semester. Thank you for the prayers!

First Sunday of Advent: Hope (Pope’s Homily)

In today’s homily for the First Sunday of Advent, Pope Francis reminded us that our salvation in Christ, at its core, is about justice, love, and the invincible power of God; in this we have our hope. With these thoughts, he opened the Year of Mercy at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, located in Bangui in in the Central African Republic. The Jubilee of Mercy will be officially opened in Rome on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Tuesday, December 8.

The readings for today’s Mass can be found here. The homily in full:

On this first Sunday of Advent, the liturgical season of joyful expectation of the Saviour and a symbol of Christian hope, God has brought me here among you, in this land, while the universal Church is preparing for the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. I am especially pleased that my pastoral visit coincides with the opening of this Jubilee Year in your country. From this cathedral I reach out, in mind and heart, and with great affection, to all the priests, consecrated men and women, and pastoral workers of the nation, who are spiritually united with us at this moment. Through you, I would greet all the people of the Central African Republic: the sick, the elderly, those who have experienced life’s hurts. Some of them are perhaps despairing and listless, asking only for alms, the alms of bread, the alms of justice, the alms of attention and goodness.

But like the Apostles Peter and John on their way to the Temple, who had neither gold nor silver to give to the paralytic in need, I have come to offer God’s strength and power; for these bring us healing, set us on our feet and enable us to embark on a new life, to “go across to the other side” (cf. Lk 8:22).

Jesus does not make us cross to the other side alone; instead, he asks us to make the crossing with him, as each of us responds to his or her own specific vocation. We need to realize that making this crossing can only be done with him, by freeing ourselves of divisive notions of family and blood in order to build a Church which is God’s family, open to everyone, concerned for those most in need. This presupposes closeness to our brothers and sisters; it implies a spirit of communion. It is not primarily a question of financial means; it is enough just to share in the life of God’s people, in accounting for the hope which is in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15), in testifying to the infinite mercy of God who, as the Responsorial Psalm of this Sunday’s liturgy makes clear, is “good [and] instructs sinners in the way” (Ps 24:8). Jesus teaches us that our heavenly Father “makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good” (Mt 5:45). Having experienced forgiveness ourselves, we must forgive others in turn. This is our fundamental vocation: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).

One of the essential characteristics of this vocation to perfection is the love of our enemies, which protects us from the temptation to seek revenge and from the spiral of endless retaliation. Jesus placed special emphasis on this aspect of the Christian testimony (cf. Mt 5:46-47). Those who evangelize must therefore be first and foremost practitioners of forgiveness, specialists in reconciliation, experts in mercy. This is how we can help our brothers and sisters to “cross to the other side” – by showing them the secret of our strength, our hope, and our joy, all of which have their source in God, for they are grounded in the certainty that he is in the boat with us. As he did with the apostles at the multiplication of the loaves, so too the Lord entrusts his gifts to us, so that we can go out and distribute them everywhere, proclaiming his reassuring words: “Behold, the days are coming when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer 33:14).

In the readings of this Sunday’s liturgy, we can see different aspects of this salvation proclaimed by God; they appear as signposts to guide us on our mission. First of all, the happiness promised by God is presented as justice. Advent is a time when we strive to open our hearts to receive the Saviour, who alone is just and the sole Judge able to give to each his or her due. Here as elsewhere, countless men and women thirst for respect, for justice, for equality, yet see no positive signs on the horizon. These are the ones to whom he comes to bring the gift of his justice (cf. Jer 33:15). He comes to enrich our personal and collective histories, our dashed hopes and our sterile yearnings. And he sends us to proclaim, especially to those oppressed by the powerful of this world or weighed down by the burden of their sins, that “Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it shall be called, ‘The Lord is our righteousness’” (Jer 33:16). Yes, God is righteousness; God is justice. This, then, is why we Christians are called in the world to work for a peace founded on justice.

The salvation of God which we await is also flavoured with love. In preparing for the mystery of Christmas, we relive the pilgrimage which prepared God’s people to receive the Son, who came to reveal that God is not only righteousness, but also and above all love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8). In every place, even and especially in those places where violence, hatred, injustice and persecution hold sway, Christians are called to give witness to this God who is love. In encouraging the priests, consecrated men and woman, and committed laity who, in this country live, at times heroically, the Christian virtues, I realize that the distance between this demanding ideal and our Christian witness is at times great. For this reason I echo the prayer of Saint Paul: “Brothers and sisters, may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men and women” (1 Th 3:12). Thus what the pagans said of the early Christians will always remain before us like a beacon: “See how they love one another, how they truly love one another” (Tertullian, Apology, 39, 7).

Finally, the salvation proclaimed by God has an invincible power which will make it ultimately prevail. After announcing to his disciples the terrible signs that will precede his coming, Jesus concludes: “When these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk 21:28). If Saint Paul can speak of a love which “grows and overflows”, it is because Christian witness reflects that irresistible power spoken of in the Gospel. It is amid unprecedented devastation that Jesus wishes to show his great power, his incomparable glory (cf. Lk 21:27) and the power of that love which stops at nothing, even before the falling of the heavens, the conflagration of the world or the tumult of the seas. God is stronger than all else. This conviction gives to the believer serenity, courage and the strength to persevere in good amid the greatest hardships. Even when the powers of Hell are unleashed, Christians must rise to the summons, their heads held high, and be ready to brave blows in this battle over which God will have the last word. And that word will be love and peace!

To all those who make unjust use of the weapons of this world, I make this appeal: lay down these instruments of death! Arm yourselves instead with righteousness, with love and mercy, the authentic guarantors of peace. As followers of Christ, dear priests, religious and lay pastoral workers, here in this country, with its suggestive name, situated in the heart of Africa and called to discover the Lord as the true centre of all that is good, your vocation is to incarnate the very heart of God in the midst of your fellow citizens. May the Lord deign to “strengthen your hearts in holiness, that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Th 3:13). Reconciliation. Forgiveness. Love. Peace. Amen.

H/T to Whispers.

There is One King

As today’s Feast of Christ the King draws to a close, let us remember that in the end, there is only one true King, one Victor. We cannot serve two masters. We must serve the King, our Savior, He who desires to reign in our hearts:

Salvator Mundi

Photo by Toby Hudson CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons

“He is our king. He desires ardently to rule our hearts, because we are children of God. But we should not try to imagine a human sort of rule — Christ does not dominate or seek to impose himself, because he “has not come to be served but to serve.”

His kingdom is one of peace, of joy, of justice. Christ our king does not expect us to spend our time in abstract reasoning; he expects deeds, because “not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord!, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father in heaven shall enter the kingdom of heaven.” -St. Josemaria Escriva

Let us then invite the King into our hearts, preparing the way for Advent, for His coming in the manger, and go out into the world to spread His message of love and truth in word and action. Pax.