Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Advent - 2018
Rejoice the Lord is King
Your God and King adore
Mortals give thanks and sing
And triumph evermore
Lift up your hearts lift up your voice
Rejoice again, I say rejoice
Dearly Beloved, right from the first Sunday of advent, we have concentrated on the twofold coming of Jesus; His second coming and the commemoration of His first coming at Christmas. On this third Sunday of advent, also called Gaudete Sunday, (this name is taken from the entrance antiphon of today’s Mass, which is: Rejoice – Rejoice in the Latin translation as Gaudete—“in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.”), the church shifts focus from preparing for the Lord and really begins our anticipation of the ‘joy’ of Christmas. All the readings reflect this fact. Our short second reading stresses Gaudete – Rejoice! I shall say it again, rejoice! “… For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed”. (Rom 13:11)
The First Reading certainly reflects the mood of rejoicing. On two occasions, we are told not to ‘fear.” God will be with us, He will be in our midst, and we should not let anything discourage us. The final words of the First Reading are joyous and anticipatory: The savior who is to come “will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love.” This is what we look forward to at the birth of our savior. In fact, the First Reading says that God is singing joyfully because of you. His love for you does not diminish despite your sins and all the bad things that may be going on in your life. If God is happy for you, why will you not be happy for yourself? If He would not give up on you, you have no right to give up on yourself.
Dearly Beloved, I know that if you have the opportunity to ask me a question at this time, you would probably ask “but father who wouldn’t want to be happy?” And you would be right to ask such a question. Everybody wants to be happy. The truth, however, is that regardless what some do to be joyful or happy, they find themselves in a cycle of frustrations, misery and unhappiness. Why is this so? What are those people doing wrong?
In the Gospel today, three times the question is asked: What are we to do? How many times have we asked ourselves: What am I going to do? This is the same question that people were asking John the Baptist 2000 years ago. The savior was coming, however, there was a lot happening in their lives. Different categories of people wanted to share in the joy of the savior. They wanted to be part of the new life He brings, a new life of freedom and liberation from the oppression and assault of sin and evil. A joy they have sought by many means but it still eluded them. John had responses to each group which came to him.
Dearly Beloved, in response, John tells them: “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” John’s response can be summarized as; forget about your own condition and focus on making another person happy. For a moment, forgo what you want and consider what the other person wants. Think about this. Tell me if this observation is not true. Around this time of the year, unlike any other time, more people you meet outside are cheerful and excited. It’s like there is joy all over, however superficial that may be. Many will easily greet and wish you a Merry Christmas. Is this observation true in your own experience? Yes, of course it is.
During, which period in the year are charity and gifts exchanged the most? Christmas. The joy and excitement you see around are rooted in people’s predisposition to give something. You may not agree with me, but I do notice this.
The ultimate step to become joyful and sustain it in the Lord is to give up any weakness that contravenes the gospel message, to live a life of grace. In each occasion that people asked John “what should we do?” He told them to give up something, share something or not to be greedy. Our journey of conversion is a journey from wanting and being greedy and possessive to becoming unselfish. That is one secret of obtaining true joy, seeing to the joys of others instead of your own. Consider this, when you are so down and you see your child happy, you are revived and inspired, at least for that moment. The opposite holds true. For the rest of the season give this a try; look for opportunities to share a little or do an act of good for someone. Let your words and actions be comforting to those who are in distressing moments. You can later share with me your experiences.
Dearly Beloved, we are truly happy and joyful when we offer our help, when we share our resources and when we are there for those who need us without expecting anything in return. Above all friends, regardless of the situations surrounding your life and those of your love ones, I encourage you to find every reason to rejoice. Again, I say rejoice, be happy.