Today, the Second Sunday in Advent, has been known throughout the ages in the Church as “Gaudete Sunday.” “Gaudete” is the Latin imperative...or command for “Rejoice [Ya’ll]!” The verb is a personal, plural verb. It is a command to all the People of the World...to REJOICE!
Why, you may ask, would the Church “command” you to “Rejoice!” on this day? Even more so, you may ask, is it even possible to be “commanded” to “Rejoice!”....to be Joyful? For us to have a fair shot at answering these questions, we must take a minute and understand what is going on these days...these days of “Advent.”
The “Christmas Season” we are in is officially recognized by the Church as the Season of “Advent.” “Advent” comes from the Latin word “adventus” which means “arrival” or “coming.” During this season, Christians are called to anticipate 3 “Arrivals” or “Comings” into their midst.
The first “Coming” is the Coming of Christ at Christmas. This “Coming,” perhaps we are the most familiar with. Even now, we look forward to Christmas Day. A day when we recall the culmination of all of history---the Day in which GOD HIMSELF was born to Mary in a manger, in Bethlehem. The day when the Hope of all the ages, came in FULLNESS amongst us. When John 1:14 & Hebrews 1:1-2 were ACTUALIZED in time and space!
* “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
* “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe,” (Heb 1:1-2)
The second "Coming" is the just that....the “Second Coming” of Christ at the “end of time”--when history itself will come to an end....and Christ will come to judge the nations. This Second Coming reveals to us the Paradox...the Mystery of God...of Existence...of all of Reality---namely, the Tension between the “Already” and “Not Yet.” Already, Christians believe that Jesus Christ, in his life, death, and resurrection, has FULFILLED all of history...all of our humanity. His life was, indeed, the PINNACE of history itself. However, obviously...the world is still spinning, and we are here trying to make sense of it all. There is still something “YET” to come. Still something to be realized in our lives here and now. Still some kind of perfect fulfillment to be accomplished by Christ in the end--when God will be everything to everyone!
* “then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. [...]When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will (also) be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.”
(1 Corinthians 15:24,28)
So we have the “Already” of Christmas that we celebrate. We also have the “Not Yet” of the Second Coming which we anticipate and celebrate in hope. So what is left? THE NOW! The “Third Coming” of Christ that we celebrate during Advent is the Coming of Christ into our Hearts even NOW! For we, indeed, are the Temples of the Holy Spirit....God’s Dwelling Place. Our hearts...our lives....this ABOVE ALL OTHER PLACES....is where Christ desires to Come and Dwell (see 1 Corinthians 3:16). God, in his Mysterious Plan, chooses US to be his LIGHT unto the nations. God chooses US to be the SALT of the EARTH!
And today, in a special way, the Church teaches us what that means---we MUST be PEOPLE of JOY!!! Joy above all things is attractive...is LIFE-GIVING to others. If I as a Christian claim to have faith in the One True God...the Source of Everlasting Life, Happiness, and Fulfillment...and never seem to be able to Smile.....how does that make ANY SENSE???
In an encyclical (i.e. “letter”) to the Universal Church written in 1990 entitled Redemptoris Missio, John Paul II reflected on this dynamic, as he commented about the “Mission of the Church”:
42. People today put more trust in witnesses than in teachers,(69) in experience than in teaching, and in life and action than in theories. The witness of a Christian life is the first and irreplaceable form of mission: Christ, whose mission we continue, is the "witness" par excellence (Rv 1:5; 3:14) and the model of all Christian witness. The Holy Spirit accompanies the Church along her way and associates her with the witness he gives to Christ (cf. Jn 15:26-27).
Earlier in this letter, JPII looked to the early Church to see what this kind of WITNESS looks like:
26. The first communities, made up of "glad and generous hearts" (Acts 2:46), were open and missionary: they enJOYed "favor with all the people" (Acts 2:47). Even before activity, mission means witness and a way of life that shines out to others.(34)
In other words, the earliest Christians gave witness to a world that have never heard the name of “Jesus Christ” first and foremost by being JOYFUL! Because they were so distinctly JOYFUL & GENEROUS...they found “favor with all the people.” That is what won people over for Christ then. And THAT is what will win people over for Christ today! Because JOY is the “proof in the pudding.” JOY makes all the “stuff” Christians talk about REAL. We all want to be fulfilled, peaceful, & joyful in the end. We know people who are truly JOYFUL....and we know people who are just full of BS :) I think that is humanity’s keenest 6th sense---a Sense of Authenticity (or lack thereof). People seem to instinctively know when they are around someone sincere, transparent and genuine. Sure we are capable of being duped. But I think, generally speaking, we are very in tune with this.
One person immediately comes to my mind when I think of AUTHENTICALLY JOYFUL people---Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta. I have met a number of people who had the privilege of meeting Mother Theresa during her life (Round 1 that is..). Each story was connected by a statement like the following: “It was incredible to be in her presence. She was the kindest and most JOYFUL person I have ever met!”
It was her JOY & GENEROSITY, just like that of the early Christians, that continues to captivates hearts and minds all around the world. However, a couple years ago, a seeming “scandal” hit the public when her private journal was published and put on the shelves. It turns out that during the greater part of her adult life, she experiences a very dark, very difficult interior spiritual life. She at times even doubted the existence of God! And at times even GOT ANGRY at God for feeling so far away....for seeming to have “abandoned” her (see Matt 27:36).
“WHOA!” The world seemed to say, “Was her life one big hoax?! Was she just faking all that Joy?!” Some of the media would have us believe just that.
But perhaps, we have yet more to learn in the school of Joy. Perhaps Joy is more than just a feeling. Perhaps Joy is something deeper. Perhaps Joy is something that transcends circumstance....or “luck,” fortune, or even success.
Three quotes of Mother Theresa come to mind.
First: “Joy is not a feeling. It is a choice.”
Second: “Joy is hard work.”
Third: Most of her life Mother Theresa prayed to God for two things (and I am paraphrasing): “Lord I give myself completely unto you. I just ask that you may grant me the grace to Smile & and to say “Yes” to whatever it is that you may ask of me. All the rest, you may do as you please.”
All that to say, on this Gaudete Sunday, I would like to propose something to you--if you would like to give Witness to the World to all that is True, Good, and Beautiful....namely to God and the Goodness of his Creation, then I suggest that there is no better place to start than to be JOYFUL!
Following Mother Theresa and many other great saints, may we courageously CHOOSE to be JOYFUL...every moment of every day. May we CHOOSE to see the glass half full as opposed to half empty.
May we CHOOSE to be people of HOPE, LOVE, FAITH & GENEROSITY.....not just to our friends....but to everyone...espeically the “least among us,” the downtrodden, and our enemies. If we all made this Choice, the world would be a different place. If we all made this Choice, what an incredible ADVENT it would be this year! If we all made this Choice, how SINCERELY may we sing this season “JOY TO THE WORLD!”
Lord God, I pray that you may grant us the GRACE to become a truly JOYFUL people this Advent Season.
I decided to post some pictures that help to “jump-start” my Joy when I feel weary of choosing it. Perhaps they may be a small grace for you as well.
Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
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,
“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?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord