YEAR C: HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT
HOMILY THEME: REJOICE…GOD IS WITH US!!
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
The third Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudete Sunday.” “Gaudete” means “Rejoice!” This is the theme expressed by St. Paul in his Letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always!” The word “rejoice” is composed of two words: “re” (again) and “joy”. So St. Paul repeated his exhortation: “I shall say it again: rejoice!” Why does St. Paul insist that we rejoice? We must remember that he wrote this Letter to the Philippians while he was in a dark Roman prison and without any certainty that he can still come out alive.
Definitely, there was nothing to rejoice about in that situation. But joy is a virtue and a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is not dependent on any external condition. Rather, it all depends on one’s intimate relationship with God. Rightly, then, that St. Paul said: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near” (4:4-5).
A person who knows the Lord is with him at all times, that the Lord is near, always has the reason to rejoice, that is, to be filled with joy. And that spirit leads him to be more kind and understanding towards others.
There is the story about a man known as Joe the Farmer. Every day, on his way to the farm, he would make it a point to drop by the Church at exactly eight o’clock in the morning. In less than a minute, he can be seen leaving the church. The priest noticed his daily routine, and asked him about it one day. Joe said, “Father, I just drop by every day to say hello to my friend. I look at him. He looks at me. Then I tell him, ‘Hi, Jess! This is your friend, Joe. Have a great day!’ Then I go.”
One day, Joe got sick, and was brought to the hospital. He had no family, and so no one visited him. But the nurses were surprised that Joe provided joy and laughter to his fellow patients. His humor and cheerful spirit were just contagious. A nurse asked him: “Joe, what is the secret of your happiness?” He replied, “Well, it is because of my friend who comes to visit me every day.” The nurse was surprised. “But you have no visitor. You have no family and friends.” But Joe insisted, “Yes, I have a friend. He comes here every day at eight o’clock in the morning. He looks at me, and says, ‘Hey, Joe. This is your friend, Jess. I just dropped by to say hello!’” Joe had no family. He had no money. He had no health. But he was happy, because he had a friend, Jesus, who visits him every day. That was the secret of his happiness. And his happiness makes him more kind and loving towards others. This is exactly the meaning of St. Paul’s exhortation: “Rejoice in the Lord always!” Christmas is near. We see Christmas decorations all around. We hear Christmas songs and carols in the air. We go to Christmas parties and gatherings here and there. But are we really rejoicing? Are we filled with joy? Far from making us happy, the busy season leaves most us physically tired and financially drained. We often hear people complaining about the economic crisis. Many are jobless, homeless and still many others are sick. The recent series of calamities and tragedies have left many families and communities devastated. There is so much bad news every day. What is there to rejoice about?
We ought not to be surprised that such is the feeling and sentiment of many people. This is the manifestation of what Pope Benedict XVI termed as the “crisis of indifference.” In his address to members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, he said, “The crisis we are living through carries with it signs of the exclusion of God from people’s lives, a general indifference to the Christian faith, and even the intention of marginalizing it from public life” (Vatican City, May 30, 2011).
God is not anymore present in our Christmas celebration. The greeting “Merry Christmas” is replaced with “Happy Holidays!” The image of the Holy Family in Bethlehem is dwarfed by the ubiquitous giant Christmas Tree. Jesus Christ is totally overshadowed by Santa Claus and his red- nosed reindeer. Many people don’t even bother to go to Mass on these days. So, when Christ is taken away from Christmas, when God is absent from our gatherings and celebrations, what is there left to rejoice about?
Rejoicing in the Lord is not just a matter of thanking and praising God. Rather, it means two things. First, it is an attitude of trust in the midst of life’s difficulties and troubles. Worries and anxieties have no part in the life of a Christian. Instead, St. Paul said: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God” (Phil 4:6).
Secondly, rejoicing should manifest itself in acts of kindness. Again, St. Paul said: “Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near.” St. John the Baptist, therefore, calls us to action. When asked by his listeners what they ought to do, John the Baptist mentioned examples of acts of kindness: giving clothes to those who have none, avoiding extortion and cheating and being of better service to others.
Christmas is always the busiest season of the year. While others are stressed and anxious about so many things, we are reminded to focus our attention on Jesus, the center of this joyous season, the cause of our rejoicing. There is no reason for worries and anxieties. Whatever problems and difficulties we may encounter, we take them all up to the Lord in prayer. Turn worries into prayers. “Then,” St. Paul said, “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7).
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Palmera Springs, Susano Road Camarin, Caloocan City 1422