Today, the Third Sunday of Advent, we call “Gaudete Sunday,” so called from the first word of the Introit or Entrance Antiphon for the Mass, which is also the Epistle Reading: 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 clothe themselves in rose to indicate the joy of these last two weeks before Christmas.
Joy in the midst of tragedy
Last year we celebrated Guadete Sunday two days after the Sandy Hook school shooting, and now it has been a year. What will happen this year? In this month’s Magnificat magazine, the mother of one of the 20 children slaughtered at their desks writes of her daughter Catherine. Every time she hears the Lamb of God at Mass, “the wound that I think has started to heal is suddenly ripped open. Lambs are innocent, exposed, and vulnerable…” Catherine was a lamb to her mother and father, and she has been slain.
What tragedy and sadness will come upon us this year? Evil will certainly come upon us; joy will be turned into sadness, and yet St. Paul insists that we should have “no anxiety at all. The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts.” Advent prepares us for Christmas, but Christmas prepares us the Parousia, the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. He came, and he will come again, he who will wipe every tear from our eyes. This absolute assurance relativizes every human anxiety and surpasses all human understanding. It guards our hearts.
“Make Straight the Path”
In the Gospel, John is baptizing at the Jordan River, and some priests come from Jerusalem to ask him: who are you? He tells them that he is not the Messiah, but he is a voice in the desert crying out “make straight the way of the Lord.” The sad and lonely desert, the dangerous and frightening wilderness, is spreading. Senselessness, perhaps guided by calculated Demonic fury, is undermining the once solid foundations of an earlier Christian era. But we can stem this tide: we can Make Straight the Path, as the Forerunner commands us. We can roll up our sleeves, tighten our belts, and get to work. It is the joyful penances of Advent, the spiritual preparation for the Nativity of Christ, that make Christmas the most joyful season of the year. Take those spiritual practices away, and Christmas loses its joy. It becomes just a market “season” without significance, driven by blind economic forces.
How do we make “Straight the Path?” We must pray. Those who take the trouble to pray regularly—who go to Mass and confession often, who study the Scriptures, who make serious retreats—these radiate a deep, consistent joy. These are free men and women, untroubled by the world’s violence.
After attending to our interior life, we must work towards straightening our American society out. First, we must confront the fact that we kill not twenty children (as did the Sandy Hook shooter) but twenty thousand children every day through abortion. We can hardly expect people not kill children when our government subsidizes child murder under another name. Second, we must clean up the entertainment industry: Our movies, television, and video games relentlessly soak our nation in blood lust and sexual perversion. Third, we must defend the Judeo-Christian principles on which our nation was established. Government schools have tutored our children in atheism for two generations, and most parents make no objection. Forty public schools have suffered killings since we banned school prayer. We can bring God and right reason back to into our schools, because we the people still have a say in how our government orders our lives together. We can make straight the path by calling sexual promiscuity, and particularly homosexual acts, what they are: crooked, unnatural, and injurious. We can do all this with confident joy and ardent charity toward those who oppose us, because we are offering them the word of Life, the source and foundation of all true joy.
Cause of our Joy
Our Lady, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, is the Cause of our Joy. If we are to make straight the path, we must do it with her and under her direction. In the face of ridicule, she is invincible. In the face of demonic rage, she is unassailable. All true joy comes through her, and through her we bring Joy himself, her son Jesus Christ, to the world.