December 16, 2018
Third Sunday in Advent
ZEP 3:14-18A IS 12:2-3, 4, 5-6 PHIL 4:4-7 LK 3:10-18
The Third Sunday in Advent is Gaudete Sunday – “Rejoice”! In the second reading, St Paul exhorts us to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.”
Yeah, sure thing, pal. Have you seen the world today? Have you seen my life? How many of us might have thought something along those lines this morning? [meekly raises his hand]
And yet, innately, we know Paul’s words are truth. It’s not a denial of the problems and challenges each of us face. It’s not a pie-in-the-sky approach to the struggles of life. St Paul isn’t saying, ignore your crosses and rejoice. He isn’t saying, forget about your troubles, and eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.
Of course not. He exhorts us to rejoice in the Lord, who bore His cross, suffered, and died for us, and rose triumphant from the grave. That too is our destiny if we remain in Him who bore all things for us. Problems will come, and problems will go – mostly to be supplanted with new problems – but we aren’t to be anxious about them. Give thanks to God for them, and petition Him for the grace to endure.
But how do we do it in the every day? St John the Baptist tells us in the Gospel: put your fellow man first. Give to the poor. Treat others with fairness. Don’t be a jerk. Do the right thing even if you don’t get rewarded for it. In other words, love your neighbor as yourself. Empty yourselves of the “You”, be filled by the grace of God, and that kindness will lead to joy.
Is it easy? If it were easy, everybody would be doing it, and we wouldn’t need to be constantly reminded. As the celebration of Christ’s birth approaches, let us be filled with joy that Christ’s second coming is also approaching. May he find us rejoicing in the midst of our suffering, while loving our neighbor out of love for Him. It’s the only way.