My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
So as I was saying we are getting closer to Christmas! As you probably know, this third Sunday in Advent we call it Gaudete Sunday. And “Gaudete,” as we all know, is the Latin word that means, “rejoice.”
So this is the Sunday for remembering that Advent is a season for rejoicing and that Christmas is a “joyful mystery!”
It is, especially as we get closer to Christmas, a happy time just for reflecting, as I was saying, on what we are celebrating.
In our first reading today, we heard the beautiful promise from the prophet Isaiah — that when the God comes to save us, all the people will cry out with joy and gladness; even the earth itself will rejoice. The deserts will suddenly bloom with flowers. People who cannot speak will suddenly be singing a joyful song!
That’s what this holy season is all about. Joy! The joy that God wants to give to each one of us! The joy of Jesus, who is “God-with-us,” Emmanuel. God who has come to be with us in our humanity! This is the joy of the Gospel!
And as we also know, “The Joy of the Gospel” is the name of the new “apostolic exhortation” by our Holy Father Pope Francis. And as you all know, Pope Francis this week was named “Person of the Year” by Time magazine.
So when we reflect on this past year, especially with the election of Pope Francis, it’s been a beautiful moment for our Church. The whole world has been talking about the Pope for months and months. There is so much interest in him. I personally think this is a sign that millions of people are still seeking God — they’re still looking for the Catholic Church to show them the way to God.
And I think it’s very interesting that this is coming about because of the election of the Pope. And one of the things that, at least to me, seems to be very attractive to people is our Holy Father’s sense of joy. We see it in his smile, in his attitude. Everything about him radiates the joy of the Gospel.
And my dear brothers and sisters, we are all called to have this same joy — each one of us. Jesus told us that he came to bring us joy. He said: “That my joy may be in you! That your joy may be full!”2
So our faith in Jesus should make us happy! Happy because we have found Jesus! Happy because we have become his friends and we are walking with him.
It is true that we live in a society that concentrates so much on having material possessions and selfish pleasures. And as a consequence of that, sometimes, it seems to me, that we think that happiness comes through those things. Material things are just human pleasure. We think that we’ll be really happy if we get the right amount of money or the right kind of things or have some kind of different joyful, according to the human way of thinking, “Joyful” experiences. But we all know that’s not real happiness.
So in this Advent season, we need to renew our attention to Jesus. Because he is the only source of true joy.
And in the Gospel passage that we just heard, Jesus talks about that. He tells us that his coming was to love us and make us happy. He tells us that he comes to heal our blindness — to give us new eyes to see the world; the eyes of faith. He tells us that he comes to cleanse us from the leprosy of sin and to raise us up to walk in the ways of God.
This is, my brothers and sisters, the joy of salvation. And again, it is — must be our joy! This is what Jesus wants for us. This is the joy that Jesus wants us to share with others.Our Holy Father Pope Francis said this morning that we are not a “sad” Church. We are a joyful Church. Our faith is a joyful faith because we know that God is with us.
So in order to grow in that happiness, in that joy, in order to share that joy with others — we really need to try to be closer to Jesus.
And to also continue to try to “go out” of ourselves to make life better for others. That’s what the Advent season and then the Christmas season is all about. A great opportunity to be closer to Jesus. Especially because we see him coming to us as a newborn baby. God comes to us as a Son and a little child to make it easy for us to love him. And we need to really start relating to Jesus as our brother. He’s like us in all things but sin. We need to learn from his words and his example.
So let’s try to find the time to read the Gospels — the life of Jesus — every day! To walk like Jesus. To understand that, through Jesus, we come to the knowledge and love of God the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Blessed Trinity.
And yes, we know that it’s not easy. But even in our busy lives and in our own struggles, we can rejoice in knowing that Jesus is with us. That God is near. So we need to keep trusting in God and living with the confidence that Jesus came to be with us — to be with us, to redeem us, to make our life a happy one.
So one resolution could be that one — to find the time to read a little bit of the Gospels every day, the life of Christ. And then yes, we have to try to go out of ourselves to make life better for others. Because real happiness is also found in loving others. When the soul is happy it spreads its happiness and is an encouragement to others.
Just yesterday here at our Cathedral parish we had the joy of helping others through our beautiful program of Adopt-a-Family. It was really a special moment of grace for all of us who one way or another participated in this beautiful program. Just the fact to visit some of the families. We were able to help more than 400 families and 1800 children. Just visiting them, helping them with food and gifts for Christmas. Just the joy of all of those children receiving a Christmas gift — it was very special.
So these days, as we continue our preparation for Christmas, it is a wonderful time to share our happiness. To make life better for others. We can do it with little deeds of kindness. Knowing how to smile. And make life more pleasant for those around us.St. James says in the second reading of today’s Mass:
Be patient, brothers and sisters
Until the coming of the Lord
Do not complain about one another
That you may not be judged
So let’s continue to give others the benefit of the doubt, to accept people as they are, to be patient with them. To give a positive tone to our conversation. To avoid negative criticism. Instead, let’s make a friendly remark, offer words of praise. It makes such a big difference in the lives of our families and in the lives of the ones that we deal with every day.
And above all, let us try to make Christ present in the hearts and lives of others. Yes, we have to be, each one of us has to be a source of hope and optimism for other people.What a beautiful Advent and what a beautiful Christmas we will have if we really have the joy of knowing that we are disciples of Jesus Christ who came to save us and to make us happy. Even just a good smile for other people — just as the Pope is doing.
So let’s ask our Blessed Mother Mary — we are trying to accompany her during these days together with St. Joseph to Bethlehem. She is the cause of our joy. Let’s ask her to be with us, that we can rejoice with the angels and the shepherds and share the joy of Christ, the joy of the Gospel, with others.
1. Readings (Third Sunday of Advent, Year A): Isa. 35:1-6, 10; Ps. 146:6-10; Jas. 5:7-10; Matt. 11:2-11.
2. John 15:11.