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Gaudete Sunday: The Way to Christian Joy is Through Self Emptying Love
By Deacon Keith Fournier
December 12th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
As we walk through the remaining days of Advent, the two biblical persons held before us in our readings at Mass and in the Liturgy of the Hours will be John the Baptizer and Mary. We are invited to find the way of humility and thereby find the happiness of heaven - beginning here on earth
CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - The older I get, the more I realize the meaning of this beautiful Sunday. Difficulties,stress,and all of those experiences which at first glance seem to cause us to respond with anything but joy, can be transformed in the life of a believer and actually become its very source.In the Second Reading of the Liturgy, St. Paul tells the early Christians:" Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus." ( 1 Thes.5: 16 - 24))
Christian joy is not rooted in the circumstances and struggles of our daily lives. Often, they are the bad fruit of the disorder and brokenness caused by sin. Christian Joy finds its root in the relationship we now have in and through Jesus Christ, with the Father, in the Holy Spirit. We rejoice on this Guadete Sunday, because the Lord is always near. One of the Psalms we regularly chant in the Liturgy of the Hours reminds us of the truth, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed. Many are the troubles of the just, but the LORD delivers from them all." (Psalm 34:19,20)
In a matter of days we will celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord. The Church as mother and teacher calls us on the third Sunday of Advent to pause from our Advent preparation. She summons us in the liturgy by using the imperative case to - "Rejoice!" In Latin,"Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete : modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus prope est. Nihil solliciti sitis: sed in omni oratione petitiones vestrae innotescant apud Deum." In English,"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer let your petitions be made known to God" (Phil. 4: 4 - 6)
The Introit (or entry) of the Liturgy on the Third Sunday of Advent is taken from this letter of St. Paul to the Philippians. Its speaks of JOY. Bishops, priests and deacons have, up to this point, worn purple vestments symbolizing the penitential nature of our Advent preparation. On this Sunday they are replaced with vestments of a rose color, a symbol of joy. The General Instructions for the Roman Missal (GIRM) explain the reasons for color of our vestments: "The purpose of a variety of color of the sacred vestments is to give effective expression even outwardly to the specific character of the mysteries of faith being celebrated and to a sense of Christian life's passage through the course of the liturgical year."
In our Old Testament reading the Prophet Isaiah proclaims a year of favor from the Lord and calls us to rejoice heartile in the God who is the joy of our soul. (Is. 61). As Christians we know that the Lord has Come, in the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed trinity. The Word has become flesh and He has dwelt among us (John 1). Life is forever changed and the world is being recreated in Him. In just a few short days we will celebrate His Nativity. However, on this day we pause to remember that He has Come, he is Coming and he will Come Again. This is where we find our Joy. We who live our lives now in His Body, the Church, are the new Zion, freed from our bondage and called to dance!
Our Gospel passage (John 1) from the Liturgy points again to our Advent teacher, John the Baptizer. He knows the source of true joy, focusing on Jesus Christ and calling everyone who will listen to prepare the way for the Lord, in their hearts, their lives, their homes and the world. In His preaching and his life witness he called for a total re-formation. The point is an important one. We are called to reform our lives. Because the Lord is near we must live differently. The way of joy passes through the path of self emptying, the way of humility. The Baptizer reminds us that we must decrease so that we can be filled with Jesus, the source of all joy.The way to joy is through self emptying love.
John's humility is the road on which we are invited to walk. He became a man of Joy because he was a man of humility! He understood the great truth presented to all of us in our Liturgy today. It wasn't all about him! It isn't all about us! John emptied himself - of himself - and thereby became one who could reveal Jesus to others. His humility opened a space within him for true joy, the kind which comes from the real presence of the Lord.
"When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
In the fourth Gospel, the theologian John records the Baptizer explaining the source of his supernatural joy, "The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease." (John 1:29 - 30)
We can find this kind of joy, this genuine happiness, beginning today, no matter what our circumstances. The Apostle Paul lived an arduous life of discipleship. He suffered physically, relationally and spiritually. Yet, he too was a man of this kind of joy. He told the Philippians: "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. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. " (Phil. 4:4-6)
On this Gaudete Sunday let us embrace by grace the way of humility and find the happiness of heaven - beginning right here on earth. St. Josemaria Escriva, a Saint of our own time who teaches us that the universal call to holiness embraces every vocation and state in life, once wrote, "I am every day more convinced that happiness in Heaven is for those who know how to be happy on earth." (The Forge, 1005) On this Gaudete Sunday let us learn the way of lasting Joy.
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