3rd Sunday Of Advent 2019
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: December 15, 2019
Someone once said that there is only one relevant spiritual question. What do you think is that one spiritual question? “Why aren’t you dancing for joy at this very moment?”
Are you dancing for joy in your heart at this moment? This Third Sunday of Advent is also known as Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday. Perhaps we might say, “how can I be joyful? I amgrieving right now, or I was just divorced, or I have an illness, or I am unemployed, or any of the many other challenges that we might be facing right now.
But, joy is not a feeling, it is a choice. It is something deep in the heart rooted in a trust in the goodness of God. It is possible to be sad and still have joy deep in our heart, to be grieving and still have joy deep in our heart.
Pope Francis has written two major documents to the church. One is called, The Joy of the Gospel and the other is called, The Joy of Love. The Joy of the Gospel offers a vision for the church in our world today. The Joy of Love offers a vision for marriage and family life in our world today. Both are rooted in the joy that comes when we place our lives into the hands of the Lord with trust.
How do we live as a people of joy, how do we maintain joy deep in our heart during the struggles of life? The Prophet Isaiah, St. James and Jesus each give us some important keys to being people of joy in our readings today.
In the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah speaks of rejoicing, joy, gladness. Isaiah says to speak to those who are struggling, “Be strong, do not fear!” How often do we hear those words throughout the Bible, “Do not fear!” When we allow fear to rule us, it becomes an obstacle to joy.
When we are ruled by fear, it leads us away from love and away from God. Fear can lead us to act against what we know to be good and true. When you see racism, prejudice, bigotry, you can know that the root of these attitudes towards others, is fear. This leads us away from joy. So, first step to keeping joy in our heart is to hear those words of Isaiah, “Be strong, do not fear!”
In the second reading, St. James says “Be patient.” Our time is not God’s time. We are pilgrims, this is not our eternal home. We are on a journey to our true home. We need to be patient when faced with dark moments, difficult times, when we are feeling empty and dry.
I remember being in a desert while visiting the Holy Land. When you looked around in that desert there was just sand, rocks, empty fields that seemed to have no life. But, a week later following a rare rain storm, in that same desert, beautifully coloured flowers bloomed and came to life. That desert that seemed so dead before was now so full of life.
In our lives at times, we have moments when we feel empty, life seems so hard, our relationship with God seems to dry up completely. Then we need to listen to St. James, “Be patient.” Deep down is a new life able to bloom. Be patient and wait for the rain that God will bring, then that joy deep in our heart can come forth again.
In the Gospel, Jesus says to some of the disciples of John the Baptist who came to ask him if he was the one who is to come, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” To have joy deep within us, we need to allow Jesus to come and heal us.
Some of us are blind. We see others, we see life in a way that is hard and resentful. We need to see in a new way, to see with the merciful eyes of God.
Some of us are lame. We have been paralyzed by some situation, a failure, a disappointment. We need to find the strength and hope to get up again and live life with new enthusiasm.
Some of us are lepers. We have cut ourselves off from others and isolated ourselves. We need to be cleansed and reach out to others, be connected again to family and community.
Some of us are deaf. We need to be healed in order to listen to others, to hear the anguish and hurt from people in our family, our workplace, our community.
Some of us are dead. We are not living life, but simply going through the motions. We need to be raised up again to embrace life more fully.
Some of us are poor. Life seems only to be bad news for us. We need to have good news brought to us.
The one relevant spiritual question for all of us is, “Why are you not dancing for joy at this very moment.” We the People of God are called to be a People of Joy.
The path to joy is not to be ruled by fear, but to be patient when in the dark moments of life and to be open to the good news that Jesus brings.
Do not fear, be patient, receive good news. Choose that joy that is lying deep within your heart, allow it to bloom and come to life.