3rd Sunday Advent (Year C)
December 16, 2012
REJOICE! SAY THAT AGAIN, PLEASE!
All three readings could not be any clearer! They are all a call to joy, to optimism, to rejoicing! It is just too bad that the call comes for the third time in as many years, when we apparently have all the reasons in the world to be sad, dejected, and despairing. As I write, news about the more than two scores who were shot to death in Connecticut is still fresh. Whilst the tragedy that befell southern Philippines is by no means fresh news, the number of those who died and those who are missing, increasing by the day, seems always new.
Today, Gaudete Sunday, so called because of the command for us Christians “to rejoice,” we feel like being at the crossroads. We feel challenged. We feel tested, even as we feel shaken by recent events that seem to contradict the call and run counter to the teaching.
And we are also a little confused, perhaps … So which is which? Should we go the way of Ebenezer Scrooge, ever sad, at least initially, at having to part that easily with his earnings? Or should we go the way of the world, ever at the ready, at the slightest provocation, to burst into grandiose celebration?
I think that this Sunday, we ought to make a little discernment, a little reflection, just as we Catholics are wont to do when we gather at the Eucharistic celebration.
First, a word about some facts … The prophet Zephaniah, for all his hopeful words, was the source of the final judgment coming described in frightful, terrible images – the famous “dies irae” or “day of wrath.”
Second, from where St. Paul penned those words that call to rejoicing, it was not exactly a place of joy. He wrote it in prison.
Third, John the Baptist, who preached against the prevailing culture, was not exactly laughing his way to his ministry. Someone else had the biggest laugh, and it was not him, but Herod, Herodias, and her daughter who gave erstwhile joy to the King and his guests.
There must be somethint else here … There must be something more and something greater here than meets the eye.
But this is precisely what the Good News is all about. It has nothing to do with the rewards of the here and the now, primarily. It has nothing to do with reaping earthly and material rewards this soon, this time, this place.
But it all has to do with hope. It all has to do with faith. It all has to do with love. And whilst it does not mean that all such things that are our cause for rejoicing would only come in some future, imaginary time, it does mean that for the man or woman of faith, hope, and love, everything has a reason. Everything has a meaning. Everything has significance. Yes … everything … including pain now, sorrow now, suffering now, and why not? – even material things, earthly joys, earthly possessions, earthly rewards, and material gifts … food, for example, that comes as fruits of our earthly human efforts.
The joyful Christian takes it all in … in stride! And that means whether we suffer like Paul in prison or not, whether we are like Zephaniah preaching something terrifying and frightening as the Last Judgment, whether we have little or nothing; much or overflowing, what really matters in the end, is that the Lord, the Giver of all gifts, the Gift Himself par excellence, is coming!
This is the reason for the season! He is the reason behind our joys. He is the reason why we need now to rejoice. He is coming. He is near!
So “cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel!”