December 14, 2014
Rejoice! Today is Gaudete Sunday – which means Rejoice Sunday!
It’s called Rejoice Sunday because the word is repeated many times today. We hear it in the opening Antiphon at Mass from Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
: “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.”
Rejoice is also at the heart of today’s first reading from Isaiah.
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
I rejoice heartily in the LORD,
Today we are being offered this message as a gift. If we sit with it for a minute and ponder the words, it can be dizzying. We are invited to rejoice in a God who wants to be the "joy of our souls" and who has clothed us in salvation and wrapped us with a cloak of justice. What an amazing image to think that we have a God who loves us so deeply that he enfolds us in the very salvation we need.
This message is so heartwarming because we are the heartbroken God has come to heal. We are the poor who are receiving the glad tidings and we are the captives being offered liberty.
In a recent gospel from Luke, Jesus proclaims this message in the synagogue, acknowledging that he is the one who has been sent to heal, anoint and wrap in a cloak of love and justice.
So, why aren't we rejoicing? We have this message of joy and hope from God, but we can be distracted by our own sense of isolation. Many things get in the way of our really receiving this good news, including our own sense unworthiness - who are we to receive that kind of love? But if we can really, really hear what Jesus is saying and wrap ourselves in that loving freedom, then the words of Isaiah, echoed by Jesus, give us a new sense of our own mission - the mission we have as baptized Christians. Now it is our job to not only accept that healing and love but to bring glad tidings to the poor, heal the brokenhearted and proclaim liberty to captives.
How can we bring glad tidings when we know our own lives are a mess and those around us are suffering so greatly? Pope Francis has said that the real joy of a Christian comes not from what our lives are right now - but from what Jesus promised to us.
Be courageous in suffering, he said, and remember that after that suffering, the Lord will come. When the hardships are over, joy will come, after the dark comes the sun. Pope Francis concluded by praying that God "give us all this joy in hope.”
In the letter to the Thessalonians we hear, "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks."
John's gospel for today writes of John the Baptist telling the Pharisees, “there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
This is the Third Sunday in Advent and a day to rejoice as we recognize Jesus in our presence, and feel him healing us in our most unlovable places; encouraging us to offering hope to the downtrodden, and holding us close, wrapped in a cloak of his gentle love.
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