December 13, 2015 (Cycle C)
I must admit that over the past 22 years (since I became Catholic) that this Sunday has become one of my favorites – and it is not because I can wear a rose dalmatic. No, color aside, this 3rd Sunday of Advent, for me, truly lives up to its name – Gaudete Sunday.
‘Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete.’
‘Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed the Lord is near.’
Is the proclamation of the opening Antiphon for Mass today. This specific Sunday, throughout the world takes on a special atmosphere – most especially with Catholics.
Why? Well, I suppose we can point to the fact that we are getting closer to Christmas Morning. In some countries, like Italy, families bring their baby Jesus figures to church to be blessed. Or maybe it’s that, in the northern hemisphere at least, the days are so noticeably shorter on this weekend that the outdoor lights are shining so much brighter for so much longer throughout the evening. All of these, are good reasons. But for Holy Mother Church and Her members (each of us); it has an even more important, spiritual reason.
Today we change our gaze.
Today our Advent journey turns away from reflecting on the end of times. For the last two weeks we have given consideration to the end of times and Christ’s final coming – the final judgement; and through the readings Holy Mother Church tried to assure us that we have nothing to worry about if we only hold strong to the faith. And yet? Still we have doubt. It is only human to wonder and doubt about the unknown, the future.
What can remove this doubt? What can cause us to live the introit: ‘Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete’? What proof are we given that our doubts are unfounded?
With the whole of Christendom we now look at this proof, we draw close to the undeniable witness who proves to us what Holy Mother Church has been reflecting on. We look towards God Himself. Today our reflections and our journey turn towards Christ’s first coming. Proof that, if we only hold fast to the faith, the end of times isn’t worrisome but something wholesome. Why? Because God has come among us. He didn’t stand at distance – He came among us to raise us to the destiny that was always ours, but for the fall. If He would do that for us in our fallen state then we can rest assured of how He will greet us, His faithful, at the end. God, never left us! He will never leave us!!
But there is another important aspect to this Sunday of rejoicing amid the pensive (albeit hopeful), introspective season of Advent. This rejoicing isn’t something that we initiate. We aren’t the ones who spontaneously throw rejoicing towards heaven. We are echoing what God has done all along. Today’s first reading, from the almost unknown book of the prophet of Zephaniah rings with this reality.
‘The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
he will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.’
God is bursting at the seams, so to speak, with joy at who each of us are. He created each of us personally, He is proud of who we were created to be. And through the sin-soiled garments around our soul He can see and love the beauty that is truly us. So, before, we are ever able to proclaim: ‘Gaudete in Domino semper’ (‘Rejoice in the Lord always’) God, sings: ‘Gaudeo igitur in vobis semper’ (‘I rejoice in you always’)
Finally, why do I use the Latin version of this introit? Because it gives me even more joy and peace knowing that this idea of rejoicing isn’t some contemporary theological mind game. This weekend of rejoicing has been around for millennia. The faithful throughout all of history have understood this reason for rejoicing and it is now our time. To celebrate, to rejoice and most importantly, to pass this celebration on to the future – our children.
Brothers and sisters, make this one of your gifts this year to those you hold dear.