Rejoice in the Lord! Third Sunday of Advent 2020
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. The Third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday. That’s the Latin for rejoice. The rose coloured candle in the Advent Wreath represents this Sunday and the presider at the Eucharist may be wearing a rose coloured chasuble.
The prophet Isaiah says, I will greatly rejoice in the Lord. Paul reminds us in his Letter to the Thessalonians about not quenching the Spirit of God. This is a day to rejoice and be glad.
We certainly need words that help ease the fear and anxiety that we carry around with us, particularly in these pandemic times. Pope Francis offers us a good witness. No one can accuse him of being naive about the state of the world or the real pain that individual men and women live with.
Despite his intimate knowledge of the suffering of individuals in their personal lives, nations that carry heavy sufferings, and the pain of the globe, he does not walk around in gloom. If he is with world leaders, he is smiling and bringing the hopeful message of the Gospel.
That message was also carried with him and shared with others as he visited the poor and suffering in his frequent travels, prior to this time of isolation. His joyful approach to life is contagious, whether he is greeting people at an audience in Rome or visiting a slum in Nairobi, whether he is washing the feet of a prison inmate or hugging a severely handicapped child. Francis is a walking illustration of the call to rejoice in the Lord.
The joy of the Gospel is much more than the title of his apostolic exhortation. It seems to be his general attitude about his role as the Bishop of Rome.
There are many of us who probably do not feel like rejoicing. These are not easy days for any of us. Firstly, there is a global crisis going on. Also, the cause may be our own personal experience. It is not very easy to rejoice if you are approaching your first Christmas after the death of a loved one. People with profound loneliness and depression don’t usually feel like rejoicing during a time of year when the expectation of happiness is so heightened.
The single mother who cannot afford gifts for her children has a difficult time rejoicing. Increasing numbers of individuals who are relatively free of personal struggles describe a kind of existential angst about the frightening state of the world. What are we to make of the invitation to let go of our worries and anxieties and to rejoice in the Lord?
One option is to put on a smile even though we don’t feel like it. Or, we could so deaden our emotions through alcohol or drugs that we are not really aware of the pain and loneliness we feel. I don’t recommend either of those unhealthy options. It’s far better to be honest with oneself and with others in our lives.
It’s also a good idea to pray. That prayer has to be a sincere and honest time with the Lord. It’s natural for us to worry and be anxious. That’s why the Sacred Scriptures include so many verses about letting go of our worries. Jesus offers numerous reminders about the futility of worrying. It won’t make the issue go away and it doesn’t solve anything, but it’s easier to live with when we share it with God.
One of my personal favourites, my default scripture at times of anxiety, is Psalm 131: I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.
As we celebrate the Third Sunday of Advent, let’s rejoice that God is with us and has not abandoned us. Let’s look for reasons to rejoice.