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 Second 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).
Joy in the midst of school massacres
We celebrate Guadete Sunday two days after a particularly terrible school shooting. First a young man killed his mother at home; then he went to the school and slaughtered 20 little children at their desks, along with some teachers; finally, he killed himself. This shooting was so sad that no one could speak of it on Friday afternoon without briefly faltering, without spontaneous tears. Even President Obama seems to have shed some genuine tears.
“What should we do?”
How can we rejoice in a world where sadness and horror leer at us from every corner? Many children of Sandy Hook school will never be able to trust anyone again, bearing the unconscious fear of someone appearing off the street to destroy them. And yet: the apostle insists that we “have no anxiety at all. The peace of God will guard your hearts.” The Prophet directs us: “fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!”
In the face of irrational, chaotic evil, many simply reject the Gospel as a fairy tale. Some express anger at this “opiate of the people” and seek to tear out manger scenes from public places. In the face of human and demonic evil, how can we rejoice?
Let’s turn to the Gospel: John is baptizing at the Jordan River, and everyone asks him: What should we do? He tells the rich person to share his wealth, the tax collectors to charge only what is fair, and the soldiers to stop extorting money. In other words, there are some things we can and must do to receive the Gospel joy. The joy of freedom from fear and sadness is not free. It cost God his only begotten Son; it will cost us too. We cannot simply follow the impulses of the flesh and expect freedom and joy.
First 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. They are free men and women. In addition to prayer, we must practice justice and charity, as John the Baptist told the soldiers and tax collectors. In our time, the greatest injustices are committed against children and the elderly. What must we do to overcome the Culture of Death in the United States of America?
First, we must confront the fact that we kill not twenty but thousands of children every day through legal abortion. We can hardly expect people not kill children when our government subsidizes it under another name. We can’t sell folks a culture of death and expect them not to kill. Second, we must clean up the entertainment industry: the movies, television, and video games we pump out drip with blood lust and disrespect for the human person. The games we give our children train them to destroy. Third, we must defend the Judeo-Christian principles of our nation. Government schools have tutored our children in atheism, and most parents make no objection. Forty public schools have been attacked since we threw God out of them. Each school echoed a cry of despair from someone who couldn’t face a world without God.
We can rejoice, even today, indeed, in all circumstances. Let us turn to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Cause of our Joy, and imitate her purity.