Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday)

 First reading Zephaniah 3:14-18

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you
he has turned away your enemies;
the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
he will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

Shout for Joy, sing joyfully, be glad and rejoice!

The third Sunday of Advent is known as Joyful Sunday or Gaudete Sunday in Latin, because the Church uses the joyful words of the Prophet Zephaniah as its Entrance Chant on the third Sunday of Advent; “Shout for Joy, sing joyfully, be glad and rejoice!”

And yet, too many are deaf and blind to the joy and light that is in our world; a joy and peace that can only be experienced by having an active relationship with Jesus.  And if we allow our spiritual life to be choked off, we can be easily overwhelmed and with it lose the hope of heaven.  Our eyes can grow dim, failing to see the beauty and goodness of God, and His work and His promises. Poverty, greed, corruption, political games, people taking advantage of others and senseless violence can cause some to withdraw into cynicism and into darker places of despair.  Such things, if we allow them, can drain totally the sense of goodness and joy from our lives.

Certainly, every normal person will experience a certain amount sadness, loss and grief in the face of death and tragedy.  And yet, the Entrance Chant today, during this penitential season of Advent, reminds us of a counterweight to such sadness, loss and grief.  The counterweight of Christian joy and inner peace is a very necessary counterweight to maintain the joy of God’s presence within us.   Our Lord lives among us and is present here in His Church and in His Sacraments, and He can be present within us as well, if we welcome Him into our lives, so that our soul can be alive and made holy. For some of us, Advent may be that time to once again rekindle that happiness and love in our lives.

Pope Saint Paul VI reminds us that; “No one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord. The great joy announced by the angel on Christmas night is truly for all the people. The Blessed Virgin Mary was the first to have received its announcement, from the angel Gabriel, and her Magnificat was already the joyful hymn of all the humble. Whenever we say the rosary, the joyful mysteries thus place us once more before the inexpressible event which is the center and summit of history: the coming on earth of Emmanuel, God with us. John the Baptist had himself leapt for joy, in His presence, in the womb of his mother. When Jesus begins His ministry, John “rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.”

Leon Bloy, a famous Catholic philosopher and writer, once wrote that joy is the infallible mark of a Christian.   And in our times there is a great need for real Christians who are filled with joy even when the dark forces of terrorism, sin and evil work against us. It was on a dark night that the Angel’s song of joy and glad tidings broke through the deep gloom of our world announcing the light and joy of a Savior. 

Our Lord came into our world to be a light in the darkness of evil, sin and tragedy. You and I have the capacity to bear within our hearts, the power to make the joy of Christ’s birth alive in our world despite the difficulties and uncertainties that surround us.  If Christmas has any meaning for us, it ought to be that we have a Savior to show us how to live through the darkness of this world by allowing His Light to shine within our hearts.   May each one of us Rejoice in the Lord always, so that God’s peace will strengthen, protect and guard our hearts and minds throughout our journey in life.

 Fr. Tom