My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,1
As I was saying we are celebrating today the Third Sunday of Advent, which is known as “Gaudete Sunday,” the Sunday of joy!
Joy comes from holding and possessing what we love. It is not about earthly things, joy is about spiritual and heavenly realities. Joy is knowing, in our hearts, the love of God, and joy is living the reality of his love.
So, as we celebrate today that joy that is coming to us on Christmas morning, the love of God that will be revealed in the birth of Christ.
So the prophet Isaiah tells us today:
I rejoice heartily in the Lord
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice.
My brothers and sisters, this is the joy that we await on Christmas. Jesus is our joy! He is the joy of our soul! When we come to know Jesus, we find the answer to every question. When he comes the Lord shows us who we are, who we are made to be.
So the joy we await is a new beginning, a new “yes” to the love of God. Our Blessed Mother Mary’s yes marked a new beginning as Jesus was born in her womb.
But every year as we come close to Christmas and we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ we can have a new beginning, by saying “yes” to Jesus Christ in our own lives.
Today, once again, he’s asking us to open our hearts so that we can share in the life of God.
This new beginning means a new conversion, a new sense of what is possible in our lives. He’s asking us to make a new change in our lives. As the prophet tells us today, the Lord comes to “proclaim liberty to the captives,” and “to heal the brokenhearted.”
Jesus is calling us in this holy season to get ready to receive him. He is coming to set us free us from our own selfishness. He is calling us to give our hearts to him — to let him heal our weakness so we can really love God and love one another.
That is exactly the message that we hear from St. John the Baptist in today’s Gospel. The Gospel tells us:
He came for testimony, to testify to the light …
I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
“make straight the way of the Lord.”
So I’ve been thinking that as we are going through this challenging time, it would be a huge help for all of us to reflect on this beautiful reality that we are living in the light of God’s presence, and that we are called to follow the way of the Lord!
And I hope that we never lose the awareness that God is with us!
It’s beautiful in the life of the saints talk about “practicing the presence of God.” And a practical way to do it, when we are starting a new task, or even starting our day every morning, we can raise up our minds to think about God. We can tell him that we love him. We can ask him to help us that day, to give us the strength. We can ask him to help us to do what is right.
Pope Benedict XVI said: “A man open to the presence of God discovers that God is always working and still works today.” He was making a comment of how sometimes people think that God was here, like we are celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, but then God is not present in the world anymore. But Pope Benedict said that we should never forget that God is always working and still works today.
We should then, he said, “let him enter, and let him work.”
You know, I was thinking that these days one of the challenges that we have is not being able to connect with people in person. But obviously we are connected through the digital world as we are doing right now. But I think it’s important for all of us in this challenging situation to be aware of God’s presence and allow him to enter and work in our daily lives.
That’s St. Paul’s recommendation to all of us today in the second reading of today’s Mass:
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks…
“Pray without ceasing!” How can we do that? We ask ourselves probably.
It doesn’t mean that we have to stay on our knees all day long. It doesn’t mean that we have to spend all day in church, or praying in our homes.
Pray without ceasing means to pray all day long, in everything we are doing. So our work can become a prayer. Even the smallest things that we do every day can become a prayer if we offer it up to God and especially if we are asking God for his help as we’re doing things.
We can talk to Jesus, we can offer everything we do to God. Just say a simple prayer, “Lord, let me do this for you, for your glory!”
Then, just a couple of days ago, I was reading one of the talks of Pope Francis on the Wednesday Audiences. For several months, he’s been talking about prayer in those Wednesday Audiences.
And in the Audience he was sharing with people that somebody told him that he was talking too much about prayer. He was told “don’t do it, it’s not necessary.” And the Pope answers — and it’s in that speech on the Wednesday Audience — he said, “Yes! It is necessary. Because if we do not pray, we will not have the strength to go forward in life. Prayer is like the oxygen of life.”
“Prayer,” he went on to say, “drops down upon us the presence of the Holy Spirit, who always lead us forward. For this reason, I speak a lot about prayer.”
Good advice for all of us, my dear brothers and sisters. That during these coming weeks, as we prepare for Christmas, especially being in the presence of God and pray always. Have that ongoing prayerful conversation with God to have the strength to go forward in life.
Let us especially stay close to our Blessed Mother and to St. Joseph in these days before Christmas to welcome Jesus with joy.
1. Readings: Is 6:1-2a, 10-11; Luke 1:46-50; 53-54; 1 Thess. 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28.