THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Last Sunday we called St. Paul, the Apostle of hope. Continuously, throughout his letters we encounter this forgotten word: HOPE. Hope is in evidence again today in the reading taken from his letter to his beloved converts at Phillipi: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice. Let your discipline be known to all men; the Lord is near. Have no anxieties, but in every circumstance, by prayer and petition joined with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord."
Do you know in what place St. Paul wrote these words of joy? He was in prison in Rome, awaiting his execution. Such words of joy from a man sitting in death's row could only spring from the lips of a man filled with an unshakable hope.
This entire day is imbrued with deep, reserved joy and reverent emotion. The two points stressed are: (l) Rejoice for the Lord is near; and (2) He is in your midst.
Now doesn't this involve a contradiction? How can the Lord be near and in our midst at the same time? The liturgy alone has the answer: Christ is in us and among us, because we are members of His Body. But He is also near because we are expecting a new and more glorious manifestation. He is in our midst in the holy mysteries. He is near because the life of a Christian invites a continual revelation of divine wisdom, and an awaiting of His final coming. He is near inasmuch as we are still in the season of Advent preparation. He is in our midst inasmuch as He daily comes to us in the Eucharist. That is how the liturgy resolves the contradiction - Christ dwells in God's children through grace, and yet He is ever revealing Himself anew.
All of us like to hear words of joy, words that make us happy, but there is a deeper theme to be found in the word of God today. The theme is conversion. On which road do we meet the Savior, His or ours?
The Lord tells through His prophet Isaias (55.8) what it is that makes it hard for Him to deal with us. He says "----My thoughts are not your thoughts, now your ways My ways." We do not meet the Lord, and He does not meet us because we do not travel the same road. Throughout his prophecy Isaias keeps telling us that to meet God we must change our ways, that is, we must convert. We must walk in His path, and do penance, especially for the sin of trying to meet Him in our own way, on our own terms. St. John the Baptist proclaims the same thought: to prepare the way for the Redeemer WE HAVE TO MEND OUR WAYS BY CHANGING THEM INTO HIS WAYS.
Gaudete Sunday is a joyous Day in Advent. As children awaiting the Christ Child, we are hardly able to restrain our happiness over the coming of the Lord. Actually it is Christmas joy anticipated. The Church modifies her colors: instead of violet she uses rose, a softened hue of violet and thus a compromise between the colors symbolizing penance and joy. Advent is no longer a penitential season like Lent. The Church has, almost unbelievably, relaxed Her penance. But in the atomic world, there is no lack of opportunity for penance.
Gladness and wit and joy and serenity are gifts that God gives His true servants. Such do not need the laughter of dissipation as an escape from life, but, as they go forward to higher things, they can naturally take enjoyment in the things of this world as they pass them by. Those who have made their God of the things of this world cannot suffer such an enjoyment.
Joy comes from a good conscience, from God's grace. Gladness and cheerfulness are gifts that God gives to those who love Him.
"LET US REJOICE ALWAYS IN THE LORD!"