Advent is a time in which we prepare for the coming of the Lord:
• His coming to us Sacramentally at Christmas,
• His coming to us individually at the end of our lives,
• and His coming to us collectively at the end of time.
And today, within the season of Advent, it is the 3rd Sunday of Advent known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is Latin for “Rejoice”. It is a reminder that as Christians, we are to be joyful people.
The joyfulness seen in Catholics, and in their relationships with others should be a witness to the world of the Love of God and the transforming power of His grace to those who embrace Him. This radiating Joy should inspire others to seek the source of such peace. Yet, in our current culture, for many, this joy seems to be lost.
I think for many, it is due to the lack of establishing and maintaining a close relationship with Christ. And also, for some, it is due to their inability to see Christ in those around them.
What if we were told that the Christ whom we have heard so much about, and whom we are waiting for, is already here in our midst as one of us? What possible difference would that make?
I recall a story that can help us understand this question a little better. A certain monastery discoverered that it was going through a crisis. Some of the monks had left, there were no new candidates joining, and people were no longer coming for prayer and spiritual direction as they used to. The few monks that remained were becoming old, bitter, and depressed. Even the relationships between the monks were becoming stressed and unkind. The Abbot had heard about a holy man, a hermit, living alone in the woods and decided to consult with him regarding their problem. The Abbot told the hermit how the monastery had dwindled and diminished and now looked like a skeleton of what it used to be. Only seven old monks remained. The hermit told the Abbott that he had a secret for him. He informed the Abbott that one of the monks now living in his monastery was actually the messiah, but he was living in such a way that no one could recognize him. With this revelation, the Abbott went back to his monastery, summand a community meeting and recounted what the holy hermit had told him. The aging monks looked at each other in unbelief, trying to discern who among them could be the Christ.
• Could it be Brother Mark who prays all the time! But has a “Holier-than-thou” attitude?
• Could it be Brother Joseph who is always willing to help? But who is always eating and drinking and can’t fast.
The Abbott reminded them that the messiah had adopted some bad habits as a way of camouflaging his real identity. This only made them more confused and they could not make any headway figuring out who was the Christ amongst them. At the end of the meeting what each of the monks knew for sure was that any of the monks, excluding himself, could be the Christ. From that day, the monks began to treat one another with greater respect and humility, knowing that the person they were speaking to could be the very Christ. They began to show more love for one another, their community life became more brotherly, and their prayers more fervent. Slowly people began to take notice of the new spirit in the monastery and began coming back for retreats and spiritual direction. Word began to spread and before long candidates began to show up and the monastery began to grow again in numbers as the monks grew in zeal and holiness. All this because a man of God drew their attention to the truth that Christ was living in their midst as one of them, actually, that Christ was present in all of them.
As Catholics, baptized and confirmed, we have the spirit of Christ within us. And through the Holy Eucharist, we have the true body and blood of Christ physically united with our bodies. The source of all Love and Joy resides within each and every one of us.
How can we Not be joyful knowing this! (Pause)
But to rejoice, it also takes Faith.
Many of us are experiencing tough times, have lost jobs, are enduring hardships, personal losses, and what appears as insurmountable obstacles. We are even feeling the pain associated with the separation from our Priest, Father Uriel, and all the emotions surrounding the recent occurrence. And yet we are to shine as Joyful witnesses.
Almost seems impossible doesn’t it?
Yet, this is where Faith comes into play. Haven’t we all heard the scripture that “God will not give us more than we can handle.” And that He will give us all that we really need to life. So hearing this...just how do we approach life when so much around us seems troubled?
We are to have faith!
Faith that everything in life, good and bad, has a purpose, and that purpose will be used to help us grow in virtue and holiness. Faith also directs our attitudes.
I can recall from years ago, the power that a mother had on her family at a time of trial and when all seemed lost. One day the father of the family came home from work and announced that he lost all his money because his business partner tricked him and ran away with the companies funds. The likelihood of poverty seemed eminent and despair just around the corner. Yet, that same evening, the mother of the family went out, sold some of her expensive jewelry, and bought food for a family feast. People criticized her for recklessly spending at a time when poverty was staring the family right in their face.
But she told them "the time for joy was now, when we needed it the most, not next week. And that God would provide." Her courageous act, and deep faith, rallied the family and gave them the hope they needed to face the future with confidence and to trust that God was still in control.
• Do you believe that God is in control of your life?
If so, what do we really have to fear?
Even the severe hardships and trials have a purpose and are used by God for what really is important in life.... Our preparation for eternal life in heaven.
We really do have much to be joyful about! As Catholics, we have gained access into a holy family and a relationship with God. We have been given this family here at Church and in our community. We have been given the opportunity for everlasting life and the assurance that we are loved and will be eternally cared for. Let us look for and see the holiness in each other. Let us honor and respect each other knowing that Christ lives within all of us. Through our example, let us be that voice crying out in the desert and show the world the Joy that radiates through us. Let our faith radiate the truth, that no matter what trial, obstacle, or discomfort comes upon us, we deeply know that Christ is present, and that he will come again offering an eternal life of joy, love, and peace for those who truly embrace him. This is the source of our Joy and our focus here today, on Gaudete Sunday!