Gaudete! I’ll say again, Gaudete! That is, rejoice!
Welcome to this 3rd Sunday of Advent, traditionally called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is Latin for rejoice and that is the first word we hear today as we began our Mass. Our entrance antiphon: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice, indeed the Lord is near. In Latin, Gaudete Domino semper: Rejoice in the Lord always.
Advent, front the Latin, Adventus, the coming, is a time for preparation, for sacrifice in our darkness before the coming of the Lord. In Lent and Advent our vestments are purple, signifying repentance for our sins, signifying our humility and penance in preparation for God’s human presence on earth through Jesus Christ.
But on this Sunday the Church says, OK, take a break a bit and rejoice because the coming of the Lord looms just over the horizon. We take a break from our purple on this one day in Advent and don these rose colored vestments. Rose is a festive color, adding joy to our liturgy.
To be honest with you, I’m not normally a morning person. But last month the family and I headed out to the west coast to visit family and friends. With my body still on Central Time, I woke up easily at 6am. Got out of bed and went for stroll and saw the moments before sunrise. First the sky was pretty dark, but it began to lighten up ever so slightly, until the sun began its ascent, and I was in awe over the cathedral of clouds exploding in all shades of rose colors powered by coming dawn.
And so today, see, we wear rose, signifying that the dawn of the coming of the Lord is soon to be a reality. So the Church commands, Gaudete! Rejoice for the Lord is nea r. Christmas day is just fourteen days, two weeks away.
This Gaudete Sunday is celebrated by the Church today all over the world. It is Gaudete Sunday in Aleppo. It is is Gaudete Sunday in Mosul. It is Gaudete Sunday in Rwanda, in South Sudan. And so forth through the poorest of slums in India and South America. And it is so in Newton Connecticut too. In lands of extreme violence and extreme poverty, it is still Gaudete Sunday.
So many are tempted to ask, How can God let all this pain and suffering happen? In our own households, there is cancer, there is diabetes, there are family breakups, there is pain over the loss of family through death or through estrangement. How can I rejoice?
The Church says we walk by faith, not by sight. Our faith is often lived in darkness and and can be put to the test, especially this time of year. Today’s world seems so far removed from the message of Advent and Christmas. To quote from our Catechism, “Our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice, and death seem to contradict the Good News; they can shake our faith and become a temptation against it.”
In the face of public and private calamity the Church says who is standing with us but Jesus, the proclaimer of the Good News; Jesus who suffered insults for us; Jesus who was whipped mercilessly for us; Jesus who was nailed and hung from a cross for us; Jesus who suffered a slow and painful death for us. Christ, God, suffered for us and is still suffering for us and with us. Our Lord walks with those in crisis. The Church does not shy away fromt the crucifix. There, there, you see the suffering Christ in the throes of calamity and death. But our crosses are so heavy! Yet look, see who has his shoulder sharing our burden but Christ Himself. This is part of the Good News. In our suffering and pain we are united with Christ.
His promise of redemption, peace, justice and everlasting joyful life, is a reality for us by his own Resurrection. Christ changed suffering from the meaningless to the sacred. In our suffering and pain we are united with Christ. Our suffering is another way to make us holy and that bears rejoicing!
Let us however understand the difference between happiness and joy. Is this a happy time of year? Yes, perhaps, if one is swayed by bright lights, parties, gifts, and carols. Happiness is based on stuff outside us: gifts, a new girlfriend/boyfriend, good food, promotions, pay raises. But joy is all about what’s inside us. This interior joy is not dependent upon external things. Joy comes from the sincere belief in a loving, forgiving God who loves us unconditionally, unfailingly, no matter what harsh things we say about God; no matter what sin we commit against him, no matter that we are rich or poor, no matter of our high positions or low positions, no matter if we work or if we beg. Joy comes from this realization that God never separates himself from us. He is the hound of heaven, finding us no matter where we hide.
Today we are called to be joyful. Lets look at words of Christ in today’s gospel. John the Baptist is in prison. He sends some of his disciples to ask of Jesus if He is the one to come, or should they look for another? This has led some to think that John had doubts about Jesus. Days in a dark dank cell have gotten to John and now he’s doubting. I’m not so sure about that. John probably hasn't seen Jesus is a while, not since he baptized him. But since Jesus has chosen his apostles, has sent them out two by two, has performed miracles of healing, has already given the sermon on the mount and now John is doubting him? I don’t think so. John is a messenger sent by God. His faith is strong but perhaps not so his own followers. John knows his time is coming to and end and the last thing he wants is for his followers to reject Jesus and so he sends them to directly question Jesus. Jesus doesn't say he’s conquered or scattered the enemy. Many thought the messiah would be an earthly ruler exacting revenge and vindication on behalf of Israel, bringing peace to Israel through military might. Let there be war so there may be peace. Maybe John’s disciples believed this too. It was a chance for them to meet Jesus and hear from him directly and Jesus says he’s about reconciliation, mercy, attention to the poor, healing.
Let this Advent, this time of preparation, of expectation, be a time for us to remove our blindness and see the needs of the homeless, the needs of single pregnant young women, the needs of lonely seniors, the needs of impoverished children. Let it be a time to help the lame of faith walk the right roads, let it be a time to reach out to the family member who’s wandered off from family and Church. Let it be a time to wipe away the tears of despair. Advent is a time for our spirit to be stirred up to new ways of thinking and acting. Advent is the beginning of the Church’s new year. It is a time of renewal. A time to clean out the dusty corners of our souls and reach out to the margins of our society offering hope and consolation to the people that Jesus came for: the poor, the blind, the lame, the refugee, the immigrant, the sinner.
Jesus ends today’s gospel by giving John the Baptist a huge compliment and gave an even greater one to us.
About John he said, “…among those born of a women there has been none greater than John the Baptist…”
About us he said, “yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” We who are of his Church established by the apostles, we who are members of his kingdom today, we who profess allegiance to Christ, we who wait and prepare for his coming, we stand tall, head over shoulders towering above the last biblical prophet himself, the baptizer of Jesus.
We must not take this compliment of Jesus too lightly. As Christians it is incumbent upon us address all of our and the worlds disappointments and failings, as well as hopes and dreams. Our challenge is to do this everyday, at home, at work, in the shops and stores, on the road. Let all our everyday actions outside this church be a testament to Advent:
Let us touch those who are blind to the light of the Risen Christ.
Let us walk with the lame in spirit so their souls can sprint to the bosom of Jesus.
Let us clean ourselves from the leprosy of sin.
Let us reach out to the deaf in faith so they may hear and understand the Good News.
Let us embrace the poor to share our wealth in their poverty and be enriched by the Holy Spirit.
Let us console those who are dead from sin so they may accept the friendship of Christ.
Together, let us look with great expectation to the coming of Christ the Lord and his pardon, healing, abundant life and unending joy in eternal union with Him.
Hi Parents and Students of St. Helena CCD, We will be observing First Friday only with Mass at 6pm in April. Thanks if you have any questions Contact Cat at 361-244-2469