December (16) 17, 2017
3rd Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11; 1 Thess 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28
This Sunday is the 3rd Sunday of Advent aka “Gaudete Sunday” in the Latin, and in English “Rejoice” hence the rose colored vestments. We rejoice because the celebration of the coming of the Christ-child is very near. But Advent is also a somewhat penitential Season. And so taking those two aspects into consideration (joy & penance) I tell you this story…
· The priest, who was the pastor, said to the deacon, “You had a good idea to replace the first 4 pews with plush theatre-type seats. It worked like a charm. The front of the church always fills first now.”
· The deacon nodded and the pastor continued, “And you told me adding a little more beat to the music would bring young people back to church, so I supported you when you brought in that Rock’n Roll Gospel Choir at the youth mass. Now that mass is consistently filled with young people.
· “All of these ideas have been good”, said the pastor, “But I’m afraid you have gone too far with the Drive-thru confessional.” “But Father,” said the deacon, “confessions & donations have nearly doubled since it began.”
· “Yes”, replied the pastor, “and I appreciate that, but the flashing neon sign on the roof has to go. I mean really, Toot’n Tell or Go to Hell?!!”
Rejoice my brothers & sisters! A Christian should be joyful because we have Reason for joy! Have you ever noticed a joy-filled person? They are always positive, they seem like they are glowing. Just before I came to know the Lord in my heart and in my life (in my mid-twenties) there were these guys at work who had something different. You could see it all over them. I came to find out that they were filled with the joy of the Lord. And I wanted it. Catholic Christians should be joy-filled! It should show all over us. And people should want what we have. On the other hand if we are a joyless Christian and it shows in our lives why would anyone want to be a part of that?!! Rejoice in the Lord and be a witness for Christ by your life.
Now there’s a difference between being happy and having joy. Happiness is superficial, it fades, it’s temporary. I’m sure you have seen that car commercial that comes out every year before Christmas where the guy looks outside the window and there’s a big red bow on top of a new car. That guy is happy! But I guarantee that the happiness fades after a while especially when the first payment is due! (Christmas presents, decorations). Happiness fades but joy is different. Joy is deep, it’s lasting, it’s real. Joy is the combination of the human senses along with the Spirit. It is the combination of the natural together with the supernatural. And the source of joy has a name. It is Jesus Christ!
In the first reading Isaiah proclaims, “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul.” As Catholic Christians can each of us say that? In our lives do we rejoice heartily in the Lord? Is Jesus really the joy of our soul? Or do we seek happiness elsewhere? In the world, in the material, or in whatever? Let Jesus be the joy of your soul!
In the 2nd reading St. Paul tells us, “Rejoice always.” Is that really possible?! We know it’s easy to be joyful when things are going good but what about when they are not? What about when we experience difficult times, difficult situations in our lives? We are human beings and we get down at times (including myself). But when we have a relationship with the Lord God we trust in Him in good times and in bad. We have a firm hope. We know that somehow, someway He will provide a way out and that’s why we can rejoice always even in difficult times!…There’s a new Contemporary Christian song by Zach Williams that I love that goes along with this. It’s called “Old Church Choir” and the refrain goes like this:
“I got an old church choir singing in my soul,
I got a sweet salvation and it’s beautiful,
I’ve got a heart overflowing cuz I’ve been restored,
There ain’t nothing gonna steal my joy!”
When our heart is filled with Jesus, the source of joy, nothing that can happen can steal our joy. Sure we will get knocked down but with the joy of the Lord in our heart and soul we rise. When we have Jesus there ain’t nothing that can steal your joy!
St. Paul gives us the key to staying joyful always. Right after he says “Rejoice always”, he says, “Pray without ceasing and in all circumstances give thanks.” Pray at all times, in good times and in difficult times. Stay connected to Jesus, the source of joy. Just like we need to continually eat food and drink water for the nourishment of our bodies; just like we need to continually fill our vehicles with gasoline; in the same way we need to continually fill ourselves with the source of joy in His word, in prayer, in the Sacraments, and in fellowship. To stay joy-filled we must stay Christ-filled…And be thankful. To stay joyful we must be thankful. We must be positive. We must see the glass half-full instead of half-empty. A joy-filled person is thankful for everything in their lives. They don’t take anything for granted but fully realize that all good things are gifts from God…Sometimes we have to check ourselves on this. When the Lilac fire in Bonsall was raging they closed my normal route home from work from Camp Pendleton so I had to take the I-5 south to the 78 East FWY. I hate the 78! I try to void it after work like the plague. But there I was stuck in traffic on the 78 and I started to complain in my mind. But then I thought, what’s wrong with you?!! At least I have a home to go to! Some people lost their home and all their possessions. Forgive me Lord! Be thankful, see the positive, and you will be joy-filled.
Another way to rejoice always is to serve and to give. When we get, when we receive, we are happy…for a while. But when we serve and when we give we have true joy. When we serve and we give of our time, our talent and our treasure this what brings us joy. J-O-Y= Jesus, Others, You
In closing, when we live rejoicing always, connected to the source of joy and always thankful we are witnesses of the Good-News that we will be celebrating next week. Just as John the Baptist in today’s Gospel lived his life as a testimony pointing to the Christ, we are called to do the same by the way we live our lives. When we are joy-filled we do point others to Christ. They will want what we have because we have a Reason for our joy!