From the Pastor – December 16, 2012

“Brothers and sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near.” (Phil. 4:4-5 )

This third Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudete Sunday” from the Latin St. Paul uses when he tells us to “rejoice in the Lord always”: gaudete in Domino semper! The spirit of the Liturgy in Advent is one of expectation and preparation for Christmas and the Second Coming of Christ, but our penitential attitude is suspended on Gaudete Sunday so that we might focus on the joy of our Redemption, which should never be far from our hearts.

To highlight the importance of Gaudete Sunday, the priest wears rose vestments and lights a rose candle on the Advent wreath. Why do we mark this day by focusing particularly on joy? It’s because the Church wants us to erupt with joy on Christmas, and it knows that we need preparation to do so. Why preparation? An obvious reason is that during Advent we get distracted by the commercial side of Christmas, which can be frustrating and tiresome.

We also need preparation because many of us don’t always live our lives with authentic Christian joy because we don’t remember what that means. In St. Paul’s letters, he exhorts the Thessalonians, the Philippians, the Romans, the Galatians, the Corinthians and the Colossians to rejoice in the Lord always. But St. Paul wasn’t writing from the comfort of an oceanfront villa on a Greek island. He was writing these letters in chains from a prison cell in Ephesus, where he was recovering from being beaten! So when he says “rejoice always,” he means even in our suffering, which we share with the Lord!

And St. Paul is not naive when he tells us to rejoice always. On a human level it might be impossible to rejoice always, but on a supernatural level it means accepting God’s will for us and recognizing His presence at every moment.  He helps us to rejoice, even while we are suffering.

But if we place our hearts and minds on material things or our hopes on human affection, we will never be completely joyful. Real joy comes from God, and points us to eternal joy with Him. Real joy is rejoicing in the Lord!

This Sunday’s Mass is the perfect place to rededicate ourselves to Christian joy. In the Mass, we join ourselves in a real way to the eternal events of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We bring ourselves – joyful and suffering – to the Cross, where we are sorrowful in Christ’s death but joyful in the hope of the Resurrection. And our joy is supernatural because it’s the joy of Jesus. During the Last Supper in the Upper Room (the “first” Mass), He told us, “I have revealed this to you so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete!” (Jn. 15:11). Today remember that St. Paul’s joy is rooted in the Lord! So be joyful! Jesus loves you!

Rev. Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty