|Diocese of St. Augustine|
CAMPUS PADRE Offers food for thought
Third Sunday of Advent - 'Gaudete Sunday - Rejoice in the Lord'
Readings: Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11; Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54; First Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28
Gaudete Sunday made a little more sense, back in the day. It was a sort of ‘break’, from the solemn tones and a reminder of the coming cause of great and lasting joy. In the past, Advent was a penitential season like Lent, and so the ‘feel’ was deliberately somber. Today, not so much. Everybody is too busy, or full of secular ‘Christmas Spirit’, or just to burdened with the realities of life to be able to ‘experience’ the season of Advent in the way all your priests and others are telling you to do.
Because, through our baptism the spirit of the Lord is upon us, we have been made like Isaiah, anointed to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God. And so, as participants in the mission of the Messiah, to “Rejoice always,” as St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading. To do so by praying without ceasing and in all circumstances, to give thanks, because this is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus.
What does it take, in a world of craziness, to “rejoice heartily in the Lord; in my God… the joy of my soul” as Isaiah says. Well folks, although our time in history isn’t without it’s trials and tribulations, let’s not forget that we don’t live in the worst of times, the busiest of times, the poorest, ugliest, most violent or oppressive of times. Let’s remember that Isaiah, John, Paul, Mary… everyone throughout scripture who tells of their great joy… they did it in the midst of their suffering.
The Scriptures were written over the course of human history and by people who knew what it meant to work day and night; who never had all they deserved or what they needed; for whom poverty and suffering were their life and lot; living under corrupt civil and religious authorities; hoping they could give their children better and fearing failure. These words in Scripture gave voice to the sorrows and the joys of those who were rich with stuff and poor in spirit; who were materially poor but rich in the Lord; they were refugees in foreign lands; they had intellect and ability but the wrong color skin or last name; of those who were rotting in prisons (the just among the unjust); those who were physically challenged with disabilities. Yet, alongside their lamentations about their sinful condition and the difficulties of their real lives, they rejoiced in the love of God, in the promise of a savior and their redemption.
So to, for you and I. Advent happens in real time, to real people. Throughout human history Advent has always be woven through with the promises of God to every suffering soul, dripping with God’s LOVE and that love finding its way through the real circumstances of our lives, to fill us with HOPE, PEACE, and JOY.
Every individual human being, was created in order to find lasting joy and fulfillment, the abundant life, through living union with God. But, we become so lost and tangled up in the dense jungle of selfishness and sin, that there’s no path through the thick of the jungle without God making a way for us. So, "The Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God" (Catechism #457). We need a Savior.
Our Advent theme might well be ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ Lord, welcome to the concrete wasteland wrought by human sin. Into that jungle, the tangled reality of our lives, he comes, as he came into the world that night among barnyard animals and shepherds who smelled like the sheep. He comes full of love and joy, even though he can see the Cross of his sacrifice in the distance. Just as he will come again at the end of history, righting every wrong, wiping away every tear, and restoring every loss.
So, yes, our world is overflowing with bad news and unsettling truths… and yes, your life might not be perfectly awesome… there’s all the more reason to be full of joy… we and the world of people around us, need a savior… as much as ever… and here he is, God with us, as much as ever… because of that day when a young girl said, ‘behold, be it done unto to me according to your word’.
Good news for us, God isn’t willing to wait until the end of time, to start making things right, to start weeding the jungle of our world, our families, our lives, our hearts. His only begotten Son didn’t break on through to our side, just to suffer and let the enemy win. He did it to make us see, that even though we walk in the valley of the shadow of death, we ought not to fear the evil.
Now that’s cause for rejoicing, in the Lord! That we have come into possession of something good and whenever we lose our grip on it, we know where to go, to whom to go, and how to get it back. Our hearts are thirsty for a joy that will never go away, because that's what we were created for. And now, because of Christ, the true, lasting joy that each one of us desires more than anything else, is possible. Because of Christ, like our brothers and sisters in faith throughout history, in the midst of suffering and life challenges, we can avoid quenching the Spirit by despising God’s prophetic word; we can discern and retain what is good and refrain from evil; we can “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing… and in all circumstances give thanks.” We can believe and affirm that God will make us perfectly holy and preserve us blameless for when he comes again for us… because “the one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it.”
For the disciple of Christ, Love – Hope – Peace – Joy… are what permeate our daily experience. They are what give meaning to every aspect and experience of life. They animate our ability to live the truth of our Salvation in the freedom of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. But, for this to be true, we must be encountering the Lord daily through the habit of unconditional openness to the love of God.
Peace doesn't just happen; it's made.
CampusPadre is a college ministry Priest Chaplain with 30 years experience in youth and young adult ministry, who strives to let the Holy Spirit lead and challenges students to seek holiness above all.