Pastoral Message – December 12, 2021
Today is the third Sunday of Advent. In our Catholic tradition, this Sunday is called “Gaudete” Sunday. Gaudete is from a Latin word meaning “Rejoice!” We hear from the prophet Zephanaiah in the first reading today: “Shout for joy, sing joyfully! Be glad and exult with all your heart.” In the second reading, we hear Saint Paul’s saying: “Rejoice in the Lord always! Rejoice, for the Lord is near.” This time of Advent is a time of rejoicing, yet some of us will find it difficult to be joyful. Some have lost loved ones during the pandemic, some have lost their jobs, and some have lost their homes in horrible natural disasters such as the recent flooding in Asia and storms and earthquakes in other parts of the world.
This year, it might be difficult for some of us to celebrate having gifts under the Christmas tree because somebody is missing. This year, some of us don’t have sufficient financial resources to buy the usual Christmas gifts for our family members. In the midst of these challenges, God is offering other blessings. In the midst of these challenges there is the greater reality of the freedom, understanding, kindness, patience, and wisdom that God has given his people to discover and practice those things that we can do to help our brothers and sisters who are in need. Perhaps, making a phone call to a distant family member, doing a charitable deed in your own local community or visiting a nursing home will make others feel the love of God at this special time of the year. Besides this, we can spend our personal time to pray and reflect upon our own blessings that God has given to us and our family.
In the Gospel today, many people come to ask John the Baptist how to prepare the way for the Lord. And John tells them to repent by doing simple things. If you have extra clothes, give some to the ones who don’t have it. You should not cheat on your work whatever it is. You should not give false witness. John the Baptist would have us to follow the same directives today in order to prepare the way for the Lord, his answers would be the same: that we should be generous in service to one another.
The poet, Theodore Roethke, writes: “In a dark time, the eye begins to see.” The difficulties of this time reveals the deeper meanings of our Advent prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus.” Difficulties serve a purpose. Many of us might not think to plead to God that he would come into our lives if we did not feel dire need. Our problematic situations along with trust that God will respond to us, together help form powerful prayers to God. As we pray to God, we learn that joy is possible even in this difficult time of trial. God is the ultimate source of joy. God is our ultimate blessing. As we learn how to be joyful people, let us bring this joy and its light to comfort those who are in need.
As we rejoice that the Lord is near, let the joy of Christ be the light dispelling darkness in our hearts and in the world. This, then, is a way to prepare the way of the Lord: in Joyful service to our neighbor.