Today, the Third Sunday of Advent, is “Gaudete Sunday,” so named from the first word of the entrance verse for the Mass: Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete “Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say it, Rejoice!... the Lord is near” (Phil 4:4). The priest and the altar clad themselves in rose colored vestments to express the Church’s joyful expectation of the Lord’s imminent arrival. We anticipate the Lord not with fear and trembling but with resolute joy, a joy born of our unfaltering faith in God’s providence. The Prophet Isaiah in our first reading confirms our hope: “The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers … they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.” As bad as it seems at times here below, we believe that sorrow and mourning will flee before his face.
I was inspired by the steadfast joy of a homeless woman with her child last week. They were praying in our church, before the Blessed Sacrament, radiating gladness. In all the city no one will give them a permanent home, but here, she said, in this church, before Jesus, I have a home. I can see from this altar my true homeland, beyond this vale of tears, a place God has prepared for me and my child. It is my task to persevere in joy here on earth, serving him and serving his servants, until it is his good pleasure to take me home. Consider that we celebrated Our Lady of Guadalupe today, and how our Lady too was with child and homeless: no one had a place for her. But she did not give into impatience, negativity. So she brought to the indigenous people of the Americas in 1531, a reason for hope, a reason to live. Joy comes to the hearts of those who welcome Our Lady with simple trust, as did Juan Diego. “Am I not here who am your mother?” she said to him, and he bowed in simple trust to her maternal heart.
Why do we become gloomy, why do we become negative during our long earthly pilgrimage toward heaven? Is it not because we become impatient? Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.… Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another.” To become impatient with God, to become negative about each other, is the devil’s work. In the darkest of times, there is always light.
This Present Darkness
Next week will see the darkest day of the year, just before the Winter Solstice. There is no longer and colder night than December 21st. Christmas brightens the long winter of our earthly exile. In this month of December the Church celebrates feasts of light. Last week we celebrated the Immaculate Conception, the “white dawn announcing the Son’s rising.” Tuesday we celebrate St. Lucy, a child martyr of the 3rd century whose name means light (Lucy from “lux”), and whose radiant joy overcame the hatred of her executioners. In two weeks we celebrate the greatest of all Festivals of Light, the star of Bethlehem, the radiance of angels over nighttime flocks, the Solemnity of Christmas. “O that birth forever blessed,” writes Aurelius Prudentius in his 4th C hymn. “When the Virgin, full of grace, Overshadowed by the Spirit, Bore the Savior of our Race.”
Let the light of Christ shine in our homes and workplaces. Do not let the devil blow out our radiant joy. Keep very close to our Lady, despising the shame which the world casts upon those who hold to a simple faith. Are Christians simple? Yes, we are, because life is simple. God is good, and it seems that, at least at Christmas, everyone believes again in the simple goodness of all that God has created and redeemed through his Divine Son.