Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.
The third Sunday of Advent is the time to light the rose candle on the Advent wreath. It is called Gaudete Sunday from the Latin word Gaudete which means to rejoice. The Entrance Antiphon and the Second Reading of the Mass from the Epistle of Paul exhorts us to: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice. The Lord is near.” (Phil. 4:4-5)
It says “Rejoice in the Lord.” Not rejoice in our selves, in our virtues, our talents, our success or our possessions. “Rejoice in the Lord” Whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. “Rejoice in the Lord” Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. “Rejoice in the Lord” Who is omnipotent and can help us; Who is merciful and can help us; Who is faithful and has promised to help us. “Rejoice in the Lord” Who loves us as only He can, with a love we cannot merit or ever be worthy of, for ourselves, as we really are, with all of the physical warts, psychological quirks and spiritual infidelities.
“Rejoice in the Lord always.” Because the Lord is always the same; Jesus Christ, yesterday, today and the same forever. With Paul we are “convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” (Rom. 8: 38-39)
Why should we “Rejoice in the Lord always?” Because “The Lord is near.” How near? God is nearer to me than I am to myself. He is the ground of my being. “In him we live and move and have our being.” My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Lord is as near to me as a sponge is in the ocean, the song is in the singer, the dance is in the dancer. So near that I am really We. Without God I would not exist.
Joy is the most infallible sign of the AWARENESS of the presence of God. One of the biggest booby traps in the spiritual life is to forget this presence of God and spend a lot of time and energy in searching for him. We cross oceans, climb mountains, make pilgrimages, read books and consult this guru and that guru looking for God. And all the while he is present within us. We are like the absent minded professor who is looking for his glasses that are resting on his forehead. St. Augustine tells us in his Confessions about this futile search for God that so characterized his early life. “Late have I known thee, late have I loved thee. All these years I was looking for you outside and all the while you were here. And I didn’t know it.”
We think of religion as man’s search for God when it is more God’s search for man. In the first picture we have of God in the Scripture He is searching for Adam, “Adam, where are you?” Adam was running away because he had sinned. God’s search for man is what Christmas is all about. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“Rejoice in the Lord always” does not mean, of course, that we will not have to carry the cross. The cross is an inevitable fact of human life. It can make us or break us but no one can escape it. St. Paul who exhorts us to “Rejoice in the Lord always” describes his extraordinary sufferings in his Epistle to the Corinthians. (2 Cor.11:24-28) And it is the experience of every one of us that in this life “ecstasy without agony is baloney.”
If you would draw a graph of human life it would be a sine curve in which you are up on the crest and then down in the trough, and then up on the crest again and down into the trough. We are all schizophrenic and manic depressive. It is only a matter of degree. To “Rejoice in the Lord always” simply means that we maintain a constant, peaceful tranquility throughout all of the vicissitudes of life; a “tranquility without tranquilizers.”
the Lord always. The Lord is near” should be etched on our hearts
and minds and our greeting to all during this third week of Advent should
be to remind one another that the Lord is near, so near that “The
Lord is with you.”
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