Third Sunday of Advent

Advent3The Third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of rejoicing. That’s why today’s readings mention the word “joy” twelve times. Jesus didn’t come to intimidate and oppress us; he came to save us. Salvation, friendship with God, the fullness and security of living in communion with our Creator and Redeemer, of being “gathered into the barns” of his eternal and sublime Kingdom… This is the message of Christmas, the message we have been thinking about during these weeks of Advent. In today’s Second Reading, St Paul actually commands us to “rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS.” And just in case we thought he was exaggerating, in the very next sentence he says, “I say it again, rejoice!” We can only rejoice “always” if our joy is based on something that goes deeper than the passing pleasures of this world.What is that deeper thing? Salvation; friendship with God; something that never ends, and something no one can take away from us. That is the source of a Christian’s joy, and that is the gift Jesus brings us.

The joy of Christ the Savior is different from the joys of the world in three ways. First, it doesn’t wear out. This is because it comes from something that is alive: our relationship with Christ. Second, Christ’s joy gets more and more intense as we advance in our journey of faith. This is why the vestments for today’s Mass are rose-colored. They remind us of the color of the sky at the very brink of morning, when the sun is just beginning to come up. The horizon takes on a pale rose color that gradually gets redder and brighter as the sun rises. For faithful Christians, life is like a long sunrise, and death is the entrance into the bright, everlasting day of eternal life. Third, the more we give this joy to others, the more we will have for ourselves. And this, of course, is why we have the tradition of exchanging gifts on Christmas. Jesus himself told us that "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).

This is the joy Jesus wants to bring to us: a lasting, growing, self-multiplying joy that comes from accepting God’s gift of our Savior.

"If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? And once again the Pope said: No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you… Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen."

Pope Benedict XVI, Inaugural Homily, 24 April 2005

Advent still has two weeks left. Let’s make this our goal: to strive to be imitating Jesus better at the end of these two weeks than we do today. First of all, we need to start out each day in prayer, because without God’s help, we can do nothing. Then we simply need to make a decent effort to treat our neighbors as we would like them to treat us – family members first, then friends, colleagues, teammates, and strangers. We wouldn’t want them to criticize and gossip about us behind our backs. We wouldn’t want them to ignore our needs and problems. We wouldn’t want them to harbor anger and resentment against us, even if we deserved it. If we strive to know, love, and imitate Christ just a little bit better each day, our friendship with him will never grow cold, and, little by little, our lives will become true fountains of Christian joy.