The word "Rejoice" written in black paint on a colorful watercolor washed background.



BY: Fr. Evaristus Abu



“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Our second reading today happens to my most favourite passage of the Bible so much so that I wrote a book based on it. On this third Sunday of Advent (also known as Gaudate – Rejoice – Sunday), I have decided to title our reflection with the very words I have always used as final greetings in the daily homilies for the past three years now. Not only are these words a candid summary of our message today, they contain within them strong lessons I like to repeat to myself again and again.

*Be Happy.*

What does this phrase mean? What message was St. Paul trying to pass across when he said “Rejoice Always”? To understand what St. Paul is saying, bear in mind that he is not merely expressing a wish but he is actually giving us an instruction. St. Paul is basically saying: “I command you to be happy at all times.”

Dear friends, the truth is that happiness is not something that happens to us, it is something we decide to be. Happiness is not a question of luck or chance, it is not a matter of once-in-a-while, No! It is a question of all-the-time. Happiness is our natural mode of existence. We don’t have to pray for happiness because God already created us happy. The smile of a child even for no reason at all is a clear proof of this fact!

When we are unhappy, it is not as a result of our circumstances, it is rather that case that we are deliberately holding back our happiness and blaming it on our circumstances in life. In such moments, all we need to do is to reach down to our inner self and realize that our circumstances do not define but merely decorate our life.

*Live Positive*

Having said that happiness is not something that happens to us but something we do for ourselves, the next question would be: How? St. Paul gives the answer immediately. He says: “Pray constantly and Give Thanks in all circumstances.” Dear friends, the key to unlocking our unlimited potential for lasting happiness is GRATITUDE.

To be grateful is to be positively minded and to be deliberately thankful every day is to live a life of positivity and happiness. An ungrateful person is forever an unhappy person. Gratitude is not something we do when things are moving fine for us; it is something that should be part of our lives IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. St. Paul says: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

If I can give thanks to God when things are not working, if I can give thanks when life is being unfair to me, it I can give thanks when my prayers are not answered, it means I am choosing to be happy. And because my happiness is not determined by my circumstances, I can actually be happy always.

Like I wrote in that book, “whatever any moment contains, accept it as though you had chosen it.” Happy people are those who are grateful for their place in life, they strive always to be their very best rather than just trying to be better than others. Happy people do not see life as a competition and they don’t believe in merely outshining others. John the Baptist was one of such. See how he described himself in our Gospel passage today; as just a voice, as one even too low to untie the sandals of Jesus. Can I say this about myself with reference to others?

*Have Faith.*

Attempting (or hoping) to be happy all the time without sound Faith is driving a car completely blindfolded. Faith is like an engine room; it is the power house; the source of our spiritual energies. Faith in God is what fuels our prayer. As Paul would say: “PRAY CONSTANTLY….” How can we pray constantly when we don’t believe God hears or has the power to grant what we pray for?

Our first reading today contains the very passage that Jesus read when he was given the scroll of Scriptures to read in Luke, chapter 4, from verse 18. Hearing this same passage from Isaiah today is a reassurance for us that this Jesus whose birthday we are preparing to celebrate is beyond every doubt the promised Messiah.

Indeed, every time we go down on our kneels to pray, let us begin by reminding ourselves of these words (in today’s first reading) – that Jesus came to this earth to bring us good tidings, to bind up our broken hearts, to proclaim liberty to our captivity, to free us from our imprisonment and to announce God’s favour. In fact, Isaiah bursts into singing. “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall exult in my God.” No wonder it is always best to begin prayer with singing; the process of singing (real singing i.e. meditating on the words of the song) helps us reactivate our faith.

*It is Well With You*

Once again this last phrase of my daily greeting can be found in today’s second reading. It is a Pauline Prayer: “May the God of peace sanctify you wholly and keep your whole being; spirit, soul and body free from all fault at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

Learn to say “it is well with me” all the time. Believe it is well with you. Believe that no matter what life throws at you, it is well. I will succeed. I will overcome. I will make heaven.

Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, fill me with joy. Amen.

Happy Sunday. Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Third Sunday of Advent. Year B. Bible Study: Isaiah 61:1-2.10-11, 1st Thessalonians 5:16-24 and John 1:6-8.19-28).