BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas



Jn. 1:6-8, 19-28
There is beauty in contrast. When two contrasting colors combine, we have a beautiful image. In fact, the attractive colors we have are combinations of contrasting primary colors. This is precisely the case of our readings this Sunday – a contrasting combination.

The Gospel gives us the figure of St. John the Baptist. He is an ascetic prophet. He was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey. And his message is quite serious: “Repent! Turn away from sin. Make straight the way of the Lord!”

In short, John the Baptist is telling us to take life seriously. Life is short. It could end any time. Each moment should not be wasted, but must be spent in honest-to-goodness preparation for the coming of the Lord. Life must be taken seriously in view of eternity. Eternal life awaits those who are prepared to receive the Lord. Eternal damnation is for those who wasted all opportunities for conversion and renewal.

But the first two readings this Sunday are singing a different tune. They are exhorting us to rejoice! Life is short. It is full of trials and sufferings. But do not take these seriously because they are all passing away. The Lord is near! Our troubles will soon be over. A quotation says, “All things in life are temporary. If going well enjoy them, for they will not last forever. If going wrong, do not worry; they can’t last long either.” So, rejoice in the Lord!

The third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means “rejoice!” The word “rejoice” comes from the root word “joy”.

Nowadays people are not anymore familiar with this word. This is because joy is a virtue and it belongs to the soul. It is the happiness of the soul. On the other hand, people are more accustomed to the word “pleasure”. It is the happiness of the body. The exhortation of St. Paul to “Rejoice in the Lord!” is not an invitation to pleasure, which is carnal and ephemeral, but to joy in the Lord, which is deeply spiritual and long lasting.

Going back to St. John the Baptist, we are reminded that life is to be taken seriously. Time is short, and once lost, it cannot be recovered. We cannot turn back the clock. And yet, the decisions we make in this short life have eternal implications and consequences. Our eternal happiness in heaven, or eternal misery in hell, will depend primarily on how we lived our life in this world. Each day and each moment of the day is an opportunity for conversion and for doing good to others in order to prepare for eternal life.

But while we take life seriously, we should also rejoice. There is contrast between taking life seriously and rejoicing. But there is no contradiction between the two. St. Paul is not telling us to throw all caution out of the window and indulge in drunkenness and revelry everyday.

This is not the rejoicing he is talking about. He is not inviting us to pleasure, but to joy in the Lord. We have to rejoice because the Lord is our salvation. We rejoice because the Lord is near. He is Emmanuel – God with us – especially in our moments of sorrows and troubles. As we come to celebrate the Eucharist, we ought to rejoice because He has assured us: “He who eats my body and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

How can this dual experience be possible? More than a week from now, we will celebrate the birthday of Jesus. If we look back at that first Christmas, we may say there was nothing to rejoice about. The night was dark – the darkest night of the year ever – and very cold. The shepherds were out in the fields watching their flock. They had to endure the biting cold and keep themselves awake. Theirs was no easy task. The surroundings were rugged and dry. It was truly a serious situation. But it did not hinder them from rejoicing. They rejoice for only one reason: the Child Jesus is born in their midst.

Let us look at our situation today. Everything is serious and gloomy. The stock market is weak and unstable. Big companies and businesses are closing down. Many people have lost their jobs and their homes. The ever-present threat of terrorism worldwide continually instill fear in our hearts. Natural and man-made calamities have caused untold miseries to the lives of lots of people. Even our leaders are mired in corruption and scandals. Definitely, the prospects of the future are uncertain and depressing. But does this mean we cannot – or ought not – to rejoice anymore?

Rejoicing in the Lord does not depend on how much money we have, or how strong the economy is, or how bright the future is. Rejoicing depends entirely on the Lord. We may have all the money in the world, all the success in our career, and all the luxury that this life can give, but if we live away from the Lord, we cannot have true rejoicing.

And perhaps we are encountering these difficult situations in the world so that we will eventually discover and appreciate the real happiness brought by the birth of Jesus. The shepherds rejoiced even though they were wanting in material things. We also can rejoice, no matter what our situation is, because the Lord is with us. He has come to live with us and set us free. Like the Blessed Virgin Mary, we repeat the response we said a while ago: “My soul rejoices in my God!”

Fr. Mike Lagrimas 
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422

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