3rd Sunday of Advent, Year C
Responsorial – Isaiah 12:2-6
December 13, 2015
“Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel” These are the words the prophet Zephaniah offers to the Israelites.
Paul’s words echo this when he writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!”
Today is Gaudete Sunday. “Gaudete” means to rejoice. God does not mean for us to be for us to be discouraged. God wants to bring us joy.
Christmas is getting close and it is a time when many will rejoice. There is good reason to rejoice at Christmas as our savior is born who is Christ and Lord.
Yet, even though many people have their Christmas trees up, decorations are up, and houses are lit up, it is not yet Christmas. We mark the passage of our Advent days with the candles of our Advent wreath. The first two candles are violet along with the one will light for the Fourth Sunday of Advent. The violet symbolizes our need to reflect on our weaknesses and how we have sinned. This can be depressing but needed because we need to know what we need to change. In this midst of this time of waiting and reflection, today our candle for this week is rose. The rose symbolizes joy, the joy that God wants us to know each and every day.
This “joy” is not a matter of earthly pleasure. Earthly things can bring happiness for a few minutes. God’s joy comes from knowing that the Lord is near and in our midst.
Christmas helps people to be aware that God is near and they are drawn to church. I’m guessing our attendance at Christmas increase by over 50% compared a normal Sunday. It is God’s desire for all the people to know his joy not just on Christmas but always.
What makes it hard to know God’s joy?
It’s no secret that bad things happen in the world. It seems like there is more bad news than good news. I want to emphasize “seems” because I wonder if it is really the case or is it a choice of what we talk about.
For instance, we talk about the people who stop coming to church or start going to another church. How much do we talk about those who have started coming here?
It’s no secret that our numbers are down but if we choose to only talk about the people who aren’t coming we feel down and there is not joy. We need to reach out to these people. However, if we see the people who are coming now who didn’t used to we can see hope. That hope gives us joy. Is it not easier to move forward with hope and joy than with despair?
Likewise, I can sit at my desk and see all the work that needs to be done. If this is all I see (which is the case at times), I feel dejected and that the work will never be done. On the other hand, if I look at what has already been completed, if I look at the hearts that have already been healed, then I can minister with hope. Better yet is when I can see how God has had a hand in getting the work done. It is when I can take a moment to look back that I can see how God has been near and find joy.
It is wonderful to find joy. Yet, the work is not done when we become joyful ourselves. We need to share the joy. We need to be joyful.
I have to admit this can be a challenge for me. Some people are naturally joyful. They always seem to be nice and in a good mood. Just being around them helps us to be joyful. I am not one of them.
Now, that doesn’t mean I never have joy in my life. I mean to say that I don’t radiate joy like some. This, in part, is because I am a task oriented person. I like to identify a task that needs to be done, do it, and see immediate results.
This worked well when I worked as an engineer. Results were measurable. As a priest, it is harder to identify the results. Sometimes it takes a few minutes. Sometimes it takes a lifetime.
For me it is all about the joy that Jesus places in our hearts. I think about the years I didn’t go to church. Was I happy in earthly terms? I would say a good part of the time but I also knew something was missing and that was what drew me back to Church. When I returned, I found new joy. As I became more involved than just coming on Sunday, I came to find more joy.
I know I don’t always show joy but I know probably the two things that give me the greatest joy are hearing confessions to help people receive God’s mercy to be able to know his joy and help people learn more about our faith. That’s why I do the presentations when I can.
What gives you this deep and lasting joy and how can you share it with others so that all may rejoice?