This third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called Gaudete Sunday — a rejoicing reflection in rose vestments and the choice of Scriptures.
We are more than halfway through out season of vigilant preparation and persevering prayer, as we ready ourselves to both celebrate the coming of Christ in history and look forward to his return in glory.
For Christians, this theme of rejoicing lies at the heart of our faith. Even if we are struggling with life’s great issues, we are still called to be people of joy and to be ready to share that joy with others.
So what does this spiritual or holy joy look like?
Clearly, it is not the same as pleasure or human satisfaction — these are emotions that are short-lived and derived from the external. They are what we perceive and experience.
Spiritual joy arises from our interior life — our relationship with the divine. Like a well bubbling up from the depths of the earth, spiritual joy wells up even in the midst of life’s struggles and becomes the hallmark of a true Christian.
To maintain this joy, St. Paul reminds them to stay prayerful at all times. Yet in the midst of all this rejoicing we hear another voice — St. John the Baptist, calling us to repentance and justice.
But it is the question put to John that catches our attention — what should we do? It’s a practical question, and John has practical answers. They are not to retreat from life, but be converted to a just way of living. They are not simply to put on sack-cloth and ashes or retreat to the Temple, but be sensitive to the needs of justice — to be sharers rather than takers.
Tax-collectors are not to resign but be just, soldiers are not told to desert but to use their power fairly. This is a Gospel of people power, where the message can change the very face of the world.
And what must we do? How can we bring about change in our world?
As spouses and family members, we can strive to love with a God-like love. As parents and guardians, we can teach our children that their true value lies not in material things or the latest gadget or brand, but in how they treat others and serve the less fortunate.
As civic-minded people, by using our freedom to serve our community. As employers and employees, by paying a just wage and working hard.
And as Christians, by being faithful the the Gospel and rejoicing in God’s presence and promise.
The list is endless — and it is only when we are faithful to Christ that we will know real joy and understand the challenging hope of Advent.