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The Lord Our Joy

 To All, 

This Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent, is often referred to as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is translated as “Rejoice!” As we come closer to the holy day of Christmas, in anticipation of our celebration, we rejoice. When we look at the Scripture readings for Gaudete Sunday, we get a spiritual perspective on joy and the reason for our rejoicing. 

What is the source of our joy? In our second reading from Philippians (4:4-7), St. Paul sums it up well: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” Lasting joy is “in the Lord.” The joy that no one nor no thing can take away comes from the fact that God loves us no matter what. God loves us so much that Christmas happened – the birth of the Son of God become one of us in order to save us! 

To have this joy does not mean we do not encounter the cross. We know there is great suffering and turmoil in our world and perhaps in our lives right now. In our first reading from Zephaniah (3:14-18a), the prophet says: “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! … The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.” What I hear the prophet saying is not so much that we will not have any more misfortune, but we will not have any further misfortune to fear. In other words, misfortune and sorrow and grief will not have the last word! Love and justice and peace in Jesus Christ will have the last word! It is not always easy to remember, but when we reflect on the meaning of this season, we can remember, and give thanks. Rejoice! 

Can we find joy in the love that God has for us in Jesus Christ? Can we find joy in turning back to Him? In our Gospel reading, the crowds keep asking John the Baptist, “What should we do?” And John tells them some basic things. And when the people begin to wonder whether John is the Messiah, He tells them that “one mightier than I is coming.” And then he says: “He will baptize you with Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” And then Luke tells us: “Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.” 

It may seem to us that all that talk about repentance and what the Messiah will do when He comes does not sound like “good news.” But when we acknowledge our sin and turn back to the God who loves us, we find a joy and a peace the world cannot give. There is joy when we know we are on track again, when we return to center. 

So, what are we to do with this joy that comes from God? We are to share it with others. How do we do that? When the crowds, and then the tax collectors, and then the soldiers come to John asking what they are supposed to do, the answers John gives can be boiled down to two things: charity and justice. We are called to treat each other in charity and justice. 

There seems to be a lot of telling ourselves how much better we are than “they,” whoever “they” are. I guess that considering oneself more righteous than the next person can give some satisfaction, but does that really give us  joy? Can we really share the joy we have in God’s love through fear and hatred of the “other?” Or maybe money and things can give us joy. I wonder. Again, there has been a lot said about the working ethic of others. Many people are characterized as being lazier than earlier generations, or that the government during the pandemic has been too generous, and has discouraged work. Again, I wonder. I wonder whether there may be some people who are wondering whether the pursuit of a paycheck, at the expense of one’s relationships and one’s soul, is all that there is to life? 

May we find joy in the love God has for us, and may our joy increase as we work for justice and practice charity. 

I welcome any comments or questions. 

                                                            In Christ Who Is to Come, 

Phil, CP