Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or Rose (Gaudete Sunday)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Third Sunday of Advent, or also known as the Gaudete Sunday, from the word ‘Gaudete’ which means ‘Joy’, that is the first word in the Introit or the opening propers of the Mass of this Sunday. The four Sundays of Advent, all of them celebrate a certain aspect of our faith, Hope for the first Sunday, Peace for the second, Joy for the third, which is this Sunday, and Love for the fourth and last Sunday.
And that is why for today, because we celebrate the aspect of Joy, it seems like an exception to the practice of the season of Advent, as today, the organs and musical instruments normally refrained from use during this season, is played again, just for today, and the more festive celebration of this day’s event also highlight this celebration of the Joy of Advent, as is with the vestments for today’s Holy Mass, which is rose instead of the usual purple or violet.
What is this Joy of Advent that we celebrate this Sunday? It is the same as the Joy which we celebrate at Christmas, the one Joy and true Joy of the world, not false joy and happiness which things of this world can provide us, but the one true Joy in Jesus Christ, the true source of all happiness and joy for us mankind. And He is the Joy in Christmas and all of our celebrations, for the Joy of Advent is indeed about the happy expectation of the coming of the Joy of Christ into this world, both the one that has already passed, and the one which will be in the future.
We should be a joyful people, brothers and sisters in Christ, and not a people who are enshrouded in fear and gloom. But it is important that all of us understand what kind of joy it is that we should have. Is it the joy we have in the Lord, the happiness for the grace of life which has given given to us, for His providence and loving actions which provide us with all that we need? Is it the happiness that comes from all those whom by the grace of God we have met in our lives?
Or is it the joy that we have for things of this world, such as money, wealth and possessions, and such as power, fame, influence and praise from others, and such as sexual pleasures of the flesh, the pleasure of greed and love for falsehoods in the world? Clearly this joy we celebrate today is not of the latter kind but the earlier one. Nevertheless, and quite unfortunately, for many of us if not most, the kind of joy and happiness we seek is in the latter form.
But all those happiness and joy that had been mentioned latter, were merely temporary, and they will not last. For those joys are the joys of the world, tied to worldly things that do not last and will perish in time. For example, what is our wealth and possession to us? Should we be excessively joyful at having them and splurge on them? Should we depend on them so much so as to the point of idolatry of wealth? Remember that, all the things of this world will perish, and a single disaster or accident is all that is needed to destroy all these ‘joys’ we have in the world.
The problem for many of us is the attachment we have for those things, and our inability to detach from them appropriately. It does not mean that those things, namely wealth, money, possession, power, authority and others are bad or evil, but that without true understanding of their purpose, and without spiritual maturity in Faith, and also without restraint, we will only grow more and more attached to them.
And much of the evils and darkness in this world can be attributed to those worldly things, when they were inappropriately used. For example, how many people have died in the past century alone when nations went to war against other nations, for the purpose of fame, for the purpose of wealth and resources, and for the purpose of human pride and arrogance, thinking even that they lord it all over the life and death and the fate of many.
And if we think about it, how many peoples and families had been ruined and broken up, because they have no true joy and love in them? Some were divided against the other because of money and possessions, some were divided because of inability to restrain themselves from fornication of the flesh and therefore adultery and unfaithfulness to one another. This is what happens when we depend on and seek the joy of the world.
Instead, we should look beyond them, and look at the true joy of all, that is Christ, who brought us hope, life and happiness, by providing us with the one and only way out from the predicaments of sin and death. It is the goal of this Advent season, that we prepare for the coming of our true joy, by thoroughly preparing ourselves heart, mind and soul for the Lord.
As we see from the readings today, we know that as the prophet Isaiah had spoken in the past, he prophesied of the coming of the great Messiah, who, endowed with the Spirit, would bring about happiness and joy to the nations, by the healing of the sick and empowerment of the weak, the liberation of all those who have been beset and disturbed by demons, and liberation of all from the chains of sin.
In Christ we will find our peace, the eternal and everlasting peace, and we will find hope, for in Christ lies the only hope for us, the hope for everlasting happiness and joy, and yes, this is the joy that we focus on today, for everything comes out of His love, the eternal love which He has for us all, so much so that He gave up everything He had, the power and majesty He had, to be one of us, and to lower Himself and assuming the role of a servant and slave, in order to free us from the tyranny and bonds of sin.
In the Gospel, John the Baptist, the faithful servant and messenger of God, the second coming of Elijah, also professed Christ and proclaimed that he came in order to prepare the way for the Lord, and to make straight His ways, so that through his works and actions, he might bring about God’s peace, hope, joy and love into this world and that they may come to be shared by more and more people, who because of John, would also believe in Jesus.
Therefore, this Advent is indeed the time and opportunity for us to prepare. To prepare ourselves not just for the celebrations of Christmas, and not indeed for us to go and buy all the Christmas decorations and gifts. We have to look into the reason of our Christmas joy and celebrations. Are we celebrating it for ourselves, and to boost our own ego? Are we celebrating it to enjoy the glamours of this world and to enjoy in gluttony, greed and sloth all the secular joy and celebrations of the world?
Or are we indeed celebrating the true joy of Christmas, that is Christ? This is what we need to ponder at this time, and then, not just to remain at that, but we have to be proactive in our lives, to follow the footsteps of the prophet Elijah and John the Baptist, to prepare for the coming of our Lord. For just as they prepared for the Lord’s first coming into the world, we now have been given the responsibility to prepare for the second coming which He had promised us and which we believe sincerely in our hearts through faith.
We ought to take our faith seriously from now on. We can no longer be lukewarm in our faith, but instead, we who have been called and saved through baptism and by our faith in Jesus, should take up our crosses given to us, the responsibility of caring for those who are still lost in the darkness. The joy of Christmas, and thus the joy of this season of Advent, that is Christ, cannot be left alone in us, but must be shared. True joy comes with sharing, and what is better than to share the great joy we have in Christ within us?
Today we celebrate the feast of St. John of the Cross, a great saint and a renowned figure of the Counter Reformation against the heresies of the so called Protestant ‘reformation’. He was part of the Carmelite religious order, and together with St. Teresa of Avila reformed his order and created numerous writings and pieces of work which still inspire many in the faith even today and beyond.
St. John of the Cross worked with St. Teresa of Avila to return the friars to their more ancient and faithful traditions, rejecting relaxations and worldliness and a return to the purer and more devoted form of life as espoused by the founders of the religious order. He made the Carmelite friars to devote much more of their time in prayer and in silence, and whatever free time they have, they ought to preach and help the people who lived in places around them and their monasteries.
Through his reforms and his writings, St. John of the Cross had strengthened the Church and the faithful, and by his works he also brought countless souls back from sin into the light of Christ. His tireless works and devotions for the Lord and for His people are truly examples that all of us can apply in our own lives. It is the same actions that we should live our faith with, and so by our hands, may it be that we are able to prepare for the coming of Christ.
Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, our Lord who will come again, shall reward all of His servants whom He finds to be faithful and vigilant, and if we prepare ourselves well, and do as He had asked us to do, surely we will not be disappointed. Let us therefore share the joy of this Advent season, the expectation of the joy of Christmas, and thus the Joy which we have in Jesus Christ, our Lord and God. God bless us all and keep us all in His grace. Amen.
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