Rejoicing “in”, “with” and “for” the Lord
12 December 2021, 3rd Sunday of Advent C (Gaudete Sunday)
Lk 3: 10:18
Today is the 3rd Sunday of Advent. It is also known as Gaudete Sunday. The 1st Reading, the Responsorial Psalm and the 2nd Reading call us to “Rejoice!” The symbol of rejoicing is the color “rose”, and not pink. But why are we rejoicing? Are we rejoicing because few days from now we will be having our Misa de Gallo? Is it because Christmas is near? Is it because there is a bigger possibility to go home for Christmas holidays? We might be allured by the sights and sounds of Christmas, making us believe that Christmas is all about seeing dancing lights (kumukutikutitap) and feeling good with the gifts we receive.
But our liturgy of today tells us the very reason for rejoicing. The prophet Zephaniah (1st Reading) proclaims that our cause for rejoicing is because God is in our midst. In every Psalm, we acclaimed, “Cry out with joy and gladness; for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.” The apostle Paul proclaims, “Rejoice in the Lord… the Lord is near.” But in the midst of this theme, the Gospel brings us to the desert where John the Baptist was preaching. Can we rejoice in the desert?
In the desert, water is scarce, the place is dry and one can experience insecurity. But isn’t it that when we lack comfort and experience so many inconveniences, we will come to discover not only our character but our greatest need? And our greatest need is God! John the Baptist, in the Gospel, does not make too much drama. Without much ado, he pointed out who can give joy, satisfaction and fulfillment to humanity’s longing: Jesus.
My mother died last November 11 this year. Can this experience of loss deprive me to be joyful? Many think that to be joyful is a choice. But I think being joyful is not just a product of our decision making. In the context of today’s liturgy, joy is a gift. It is a gift because the Giver is God in Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because Jesus is with us and He is the cause of our rejoicing, how can we live our Christian life joyfully even in the midst of this pandemic? May I propose to you 3 F’s.
First, fall in love. Why? Because love brings joy. Advent prepares us for the comings. From 1st Sunday of Advent until 16 December, we are preparing for the 2nd Coming of Christ. From 17 December until 24 December, we are preparing for the commemoration of Christ’s 1st Coming (Christmas). Between the 1st coming and the 2nd coming is the present moment where we can be “in” love. Being “in” the “now” is God’s gift where we encounter being “new”. In the Gospel, people asked the Baptist, “What should we do?” The Baptist encouraged them to share, be kind, be just and be thankful. Those are acts of charity. For Don Bosco, our works of love are to be coupled with prayer and the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, in order that our efforts for renewal is not something elusive but are fulfilled in the “here and now”. One time, a guy asked a beautiful lady, “What time is it?” The lady looked at her watch and replied, “It’s time to love God.” Love does not only guarantee satisfaction but love brings completion and fulfillment.
Second, focus in doing God’s will. John the Baptist was becoming famous a preacher. People approached John and asked him what they should do. But his joy is not by becoming popular. His joy was in being the “friend of the Bridegroom” (Jn. 3:29). John is the voice. Jesus is the Word. Many people are experiencing disappointment. Why? It is not because we are not doing what we are supposed to do but because we do not find meaning, purpose and direction. And God’s nearness can be encountered if we discovered our life’s meaning, purpose and direction. Maybe, we have accomplished much, delivered much and attained much. But how about our relationship in the family, community and colleagues? If our ego is inflated, relationships are missed and efforts are wasted, (1) put God as number 1, (2) know one’s purpose “in” God, (3) seek God’s direction through prayer. This reminds me of a prayer: “Direct, we beseech You, O Lord, all our actions by Your holy inspiration, and carry them on by Your gracious assistance. So that in every prayer, thought and act of ours, may always begin from you and through You be brought to completion, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
Third, be forgiven by the Lord. Sin cannot lead us to real joy. There is no real joy in being selfish. There is no real joy in being proud and greedy. There is no real in treating people as objects. There is no real joy in being lazy and envious. Sins are “chaff” to be burned. So how can we be purified in order to experience real joy? Let us meet Christ through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Sins can wound. Sins can make us sick and tired. Sin can make us sad. But thanks be to God for the Sacrament of Reconciliation by which the Lord heals and forgives. Being reconciled with Him again and again, gives us real joy!
We do not need to have much, to spend much and to do much just to be joyful. Fall in love with the Lord. Focus in doing God’s will. Be forgiven by the Lord. In doing so, we rejoice “in” the Lord, “with” the Lord and “for” the Lord. If we live in, with and for the Lord, we will have joy that is rooted in peace for as St Paul echoes in the 2nd Reading, “The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Amen.
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