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
“Rejoice in the Lord always!” 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.” 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” 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” 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.
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.” 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.” He never ceases to call us, and in our baptism we find true life and happiness.
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. 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.”
-  Phil. 4.4
-  Luke 3.11
-  Phil. 4.5
-  CCC 218
-  Luke 3.16
-  Responsorial Psalm Verse
-  CCC 30
-  Zeph. 3.17
-  Responsorial Psalm Verse
Note: I am back after exams and the end of the semester. Thank you for the prayers!