Monday, December 13, 2010

Do you want to be more joyful?

3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A.
December 12th, 2010
Gaudete Sunday

Rejoice in the Lord always, I say it again rejoice! The Lord is near.

Recently, I had the opportunity to go Christmas caroling with the children from our parish grade school. And, before the kids went out to sing in the various places around the city, the teachers had to remind them to smile. Children, of course, can get a little nervous when in front of a crowd, and so it was necessary for the teachers to remind them to be joyful when singing their Christmas songs.
There is indeed something about Christmas carols which requires that we rejoice as we sing them. There is something about the very nature of Christmas which demands joy.

Today is Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete simply means “rejoice”. The Church tells us to be joyful in the Lord; and it is not a recommendation, it is a command The Faith demands that we Christians be joyful, that we truly do rejoice in the Lord.
But what is this joy which the faith requires? Is it, perhaps, a passing emotion? No, of course not. The joy of which we speak is the spiritual and supernatural joy the soul takes in the Lord when she is in the state of grace. Joy is an effect of the theological virtue of charity – it is as stable in the soul as the state of grace.
In fact, joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit; that is, it is the activity of the Holy Spirit working in and through us! This is why the Church can demand that we be joyful – true joy is always present in the soul which is united to the Holy Spirit through grace.

Precisely because spiritual joy is not a passing emotion, the saints could be joyful even in the midst of terrible hardship and persecution. We can consider how many of the martyrs rejoiced even as they were tortured and killed.
Consider the saint presented to us in today’s Gospel: St. John the Baptist. John lived a very austere and difficult life. He was out in the desert, eating locusts and wild honey. He was not dressed in fine clothes, but in camels hair. John’s life was certainly not easy and he did not have hardly any material comforts – and yet he rejoiced to see the day of the Lord and to point out the Messiah when he came. Moreover, even at the end of his life, when, due to the malice of Herod, John awaited his martyrdom; he was nevertheless joyful and looked for consolation not in the things of this life, but in the Lord.
This is the lesson to be learned from John – if we desire to be truly joyful, we must not be like a reed swayed in the wind, we must not be tossed about by our passions and our worldly cares, we must not look for consolation in the base realities of this life; rather, we must be rooted in the Lord and find all our joy in him.

And so, we have an opportunity to ask ourselves: Am I as joyful as I would like to be? Am I as joyful as I should be? Let us be honest, why do we lack the joy which Christ desires for us?
Now I know that we are all very busy and there are many demands pressing in on every side. Perhaps even we might feel stretched too thin, exhausted. We might think that we are not has happy and joyful as we should be because there are just too many demands that we have to live up to.
My brothers and sisters, it is a lie. There is only one reason why you are not joyful – you sin too often and you pray too little. Only one thing can rob us of spiritual joy, and that is sin. For only sin can take away divine grace.

It is time to stop making all these excuses. Yes, it may be true, perhaps life is hard and demands too much. But the proper response to this is to seek our consolation in Christ. If we do not take our delight in Christ through daily meditation, we will begin to seek joy in all the wrong places. The Lord says, “I know you are tired, I know that life is burdensome to you; then leave the world, even if for just a moment. Come to me and rest a while in prayer. Enter my Sacred Heart and find your true peace, your true joy.”

Advent is a time to be free of all those sins which bind us. Now is the time to begin anew the life of grace, to strive for virtue with greater zeal than before.
Consider the love which Christ our God showed us in becoming a child to save us. May his second coming be for us the fulfillment of all joy.