Rejoice Always!

Dear Friends in Christ,

Advent is fast coming to a close. Today, the Third Sunday of Advent is Guadete Sunday – Rejoice! Sunday. We hear in today’s Entrance Antiphon the famous exaltation of St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians,

“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice..The Lord is near!”
~Phil 4:4:5.

In our first reading we also hear the Prophet Isaiah telling us how all creation will rejoice at the coming of the Lord (Is 36:1-6). We rejoice today firm in the knowledge, faith and hope, that Jesus is coming and that with his Second Coming, the end of time is approaching. We also rejoice that our feast of commemorating the First Coming of the Lord is also near at hand. On a more immediate level, we rejoice too that our season of penance is coming to an end. Until recently (the last fifty years or so), Gaudete Sunday was also a reprieve from the penances and sacrifices of Advent. As many Catholics have lost or abandoned the penitential practices of Advent, the notion of rejoicing has become muted within the secular hoopla that surrounds and bombards us. In contrast to the world, we, as Catholics, fast before we feast in order to make our feasting all the more impactful. We still see glimpses of the authentic penitential nature of Advent in church – the purple vestments, the lack of flowers, the emphasis on Confession etc. Guadete Sunday is the reminder that the fasting is nearly over and the feast is near! If you have not been to Confession please avail yourself of the opportunity this week. Come give your sins to Jesus in the Sacrament of Penance and allow the Lord through the ministry of His Church to bestow his forgiveness, grace and healing upon you. Before Christmas, there is still time to avail yourselves of a few moments to be quiet, pray, reflect and spiritually prepare for the feast of the nativity of the Lord.

We have all heard the lament that Christmas is too commercial and that we have lost the meaning of Christmas and that there is a “war on Christmas”. One can hardly deny that these are true, yet it is highly unlikely that any one of us can by ourselves change society, modern post-Christian culture and the forces that support them. What we can change totally and completely with God’s grace is ourselves and our families. We can, by our own actions and choices, make a real difference for ourselves and our family. It may be small and it may seem insignificant, but that is how change often starts. In doing this, we can have an impact on others (neighbors, friends, co-workers) by how we approach Advent and Christmas. We can be the cause for their own re-thinking, reflection and questioning about how they act. We can reclaim the spiritual dimension that has been lost and share the richness that the Church offers. To do so means that we ourselves have to first live the spiritual dimension of Advent and Christmas. The lack of civility in public discourse, the hostility and anger that mark interactions – from office politics to road rage to cyber bullying and public shaming are omnipresent. We can change and have a real impact on the world around us when we live, outside of Church, what we proclaim inside of Church. There is a saying, “liturgy is life!” Allowing our lives to be guided and directed by the Church’s liturgy will cause us to be in contradiction to the mores of society, and it will also aid in transforming our lives and ultimately society itself. Imagine, if all social interaction started with the presumption, as does the Eucharistic liturgy, of humility and contrition and ended with the goal of gratitude and generosity.
This Advent and Christmas bring the liturgy home with you and take it wherever you go. Live, not only at Church but also in your home, the themes of vigilance, preparation, rejoicing and beholding awe. The way to have a beautiful Christmas is to have a holy Advent. The way to eternal life is a holy life. The key to happiness is holiness and Christmas is not about us, it is about Jesus!

In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy