December 13, 2020 – Third Sunday of Advent: Gaudete Sunday
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/121320.cfm)
A friend once shared to me how he found it difficult to enjoy life and to live life truly. He found it hard not to give in to despair and sadness. The deaths in his family, the broken relationship he recently have, the financial crisis and the depressive environment because of the anxiety and fear brought by the pandemic have caused so much stress. He might just give up if these will continue. Indeed, he found it very difficult to find reasons to be joyful. Listening to my friend, it challenged me also to dwell deeper on this essential aspect of life, to find reason to rejoice. There must be more than what I believe, reasons to rejoice and be thankful for.
This is the invitation today as we celebrate Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent. We are halfway towards Christmas and it is important that we become confident that there are indeed, reasons to be joyful in this life. Hence, let us discover our beautiful readings today and see how God invites us to find reasons to rejoice.
In the Book of Prophet Isaiah, the prophet reminds the people of the reasons to rejoice. The people were back in Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon yet life back at home was still filled with injustice and difficulties. Returning home did not solve all their problems. They still found themselves at the brink of giving up. Thus, Isaiah proclaimed to the people, “a year of favor from the Lord.” This favor from the Lord invites the people to recognize the blessings of God even when life seemed not to be favorable. To arrive in this kind of consciousness with God requires the people to be more aware of God’s spirit dwelling in them. This kind of consciousness brought the prophet to a deeper realization and recognized that “God is the joy of my soul.” Thus, the prophet tells us now to also find in our heart that God indeed, is the joy of our soul.
Such realization is an attitude that allows us to become more confident in God’s promise of salvation and freedom. That is why, the prophet also anticipated the joy and the blessing of God’s arrival. On that day, the Lord shall bring glad tidings to the poor, healing to the brokenhearted, freedom to the captives and prisoners.
Finding God as the joy of our soul is what has been proclaimed to us also in the Responsorial Psalm which was taken from the Gospel of Luke. The Magnificat of Mary tells us how she rejoices in God her savior. In this song, Mary recounted how good is the Lord and how God brought so much transformation in her life and in the lives of many. God brings blessings and graces to us with His presence. If we would only realize this and will always rest our confidence in God, we shall always rejoice as well even if what lies outside our life is not favorable. Mary reminds us now that God remembers his promise of mercy. God, indeed, remembers us and will never forget us.
That is why, Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians also reminded them to rejoice always and in all circumstances give thanks. When our spirit is filled with gratitude, we look at things and look at life at the perspective of grace and blessing. Yet, when our spirit is filled with bitterness, then we look at the world and our life at the perspective of sin and curse.
For this reason, for us to keep our mind and heart filled with gratitude and at the perspective of grace and blessing, Paul reminds us today, to “pray without ceasing.” This is an invitation to always have the consciousness of God’s Spirit dwelling in us which will bring us into a deeper confidence that God is the joy of our soul. This was what Isaiah told us.
In the same way, the concrete example given to us today who have become a person of joy and gratitude was John the Baptist. John who was filled with God’s Spirit even when he was still in the womb of her mother, was overflowing with joy. This must be the reason why John could not stop proclaiming the coming of the Messiah. As John’s response to what he felt, John became a witness. Because John experienced so much grace and so did became a grace to the people. Because he experienced the light of God, he too became a witness to that light.
John could have claimed that he was the Messiah so that people will worship him. People were already looking up to him. Yet, he did not because the joy in John’s heart made him honest and truthful. Thus, a person who is indeed, filled with joy and grace of God would always point the source of such blessing. Becoming a witness of that grace and blessing is what makes us to rejoice truly in the Lord.
Our invitations for today are these.
First. Recognize your blessings even in the midst of your difficulties. There must be more reasons to rejoice than what we think and believe. As we recognize every blessing and grace, let God fill our heart with joy today.
Second. Pray without ceasing that we may always become conscious of God’s Spirit dwelling in us. Never stop even if it becomes dry. Pray always that we find God always too.
Third. Be a witness by becoming a joyful and generous giver to those who are in need of your presence, talents and resources. Joy is like corona virus, it is infectious. Rather than infecting others of our bitterness, anger and hatred, infect others with your joy, with your heart that is filled with God’s presence.