Rejoice! This is What God Expects of You!

Reflections for Advent are by Bishop Kenneth Richards, Bishop of St. John’s-Basseterre

Richards - newThird Sunday of Advent – 14th December 2014

Today, the Third Sunday of Advent, is Gaudete Sunday indicating the rejoicing of the people who look forward to celebrating the Birthday of Christ, for His Presence is the sign of our salvation. And, so with great hope in recognition of the favour of Our Lord toward His people, we rejoice in thanksgiving. 

The messenger announcing the good news of God’s favour, rejoices with confident hope of God’s saving action; and the people who benefit from the favours of Our Lord delight exultantly at their good fortune.  This joy and delight in God our Saviour contains an enthusiasm difficult to express in words. Hence, the Magnificatn (Luke 1:46–48, 49–50, 53–54) which is used for today’s Responsorial Psalm, capturing the memories of God’s goodness, becomes a perfect expression of rejoicing and thanksgiving.  Today, each of us must make these words of rejoicing and thanksgiving our own, with the desire to express the sentiments that filled the heart of Mary when she first gave breath to these words: My soul Magnifies the Lord, My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour! We must declare with The Blessed Mother of Our Lord!

So easily, we can utter these words of rejoicing without entering into the depth of their meaning.  Or, as the case can be, we may miss the opportunity to genuinely and actively participate in the joyful thanksgiving that is the particular character of our celebration of the Eucharist, the greatest act of Thanksgiving available for our human experience when we gather for Mass.

The Reading from the First Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians (5:16-24) reminds us: Be happy at all times; pray constantly; and for all things give thanks to God, because this is what God expects you to do in Christ Jesus.

Many may find this requirement impossible and not practical, in light of the burdens, challenges, and problems that can overwhelm our living experience. Yet, Paul tells us that this is what God expects of us! Thus, there must be an underlying meaning for us to consider that is more than our thinking that a person must give the appearance of happiness to hide deep sadness.

The Christian joy that Paul speaks of, is a fruit of the Spirit that is based on the confidence that comes from faith. It is a joy that is rooted in hope that is unshakeable! As Paul says in another place: I find my joy in the suffering I endure for you (Col 1:24).  And: We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful; as unrecognized and yet acknowledged; as dying and behold we live…as sorrowful yet always rejoicing…(2 Cor 6:8-10). And, referring to the example of the Macedonians Paul states: In the midst of severe trial their overflowing joy and deep poverty have produced an abundant generosity (2 Cor 8:1).

How do we relate to and make the joy that is the gift of the Spirit, a personal experience, especially those of us experiencing turmoil and strain in our lives?

This Sunday’s Liturgy invites us to base our response in the knowledge that our salvation is at hand. We take our cue from The Prophet Isaiah who responds with joy to his commission because the Lord has anointed him for mission to the needy.  Then the exiles, though needy and brokenhearted had reason to rejoice because of the announcement that God was restoring His favour to them.  In the Responsorial Psalm, Mary rejoices because of the marvels the Lord had done for her.  The Thessalonians are encouraged to remain joyful because to act contrary would be a suppression of the Spirit.

Therefore, in our day as a people of faith, each of us hearing these examples along with the announcement of John the Baptist (John 1:6–8, 19–28): “I am as Isaiah prophesied, a voice that cries in the wilderness, make a straight way for the Lord”, must ensure that our Advent attitude is in tune to “…what God expects you to do in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes 5:18).  So let us be glad and rejoice for Our Salvation has come!

Let us pray:

Lord Our God,

We your people are at times weighed down by some of our living experiences.

Grant us we pray,

The attitude of rejoicing that is inspired by the hope

that comes to all who look forward to the coming of Our Lord and Saviour,

Jesus Christ.

For He is our deliverer and our salvation. Amen!