Third Sunday of Advent, 2023

Gaudete Sunday

Sister Helen Robert Boyd shared this reflection at Sunday's evening Vespers at Dominican Convent in Sparkill.

Today Christians throughout the world celebrate the Third Sunday of Advent traditionally known as Gaudete Sunday from the introductory phrase of the liturgy, “Rejoice in the Lord!” All the readings of today call for us to rejoice! Even the rose-colored candle reminds us that the light of Christ is soon to break through the darkness of night.

From the 6th Century BC, Isaiah 61 shouts out, "Rejoice heartily in the Lord my God is the joy of my soul!" Saint Paul's letter to the community in Thessalonica (5:16) encourages them with the words, "Brothers and sisters rejoice always. Pray without ceasing." And in John’s Gospel, the Baptist heralds the nearness of our savior.Indeed, these messages of joy remind us that the most glorious moment in history is upon us and one that changes everything. We no longer have to guess about the distance between us and God or fear if God is seeking retribution. Separation is no longer possible with such a loving Creator who becomes a human.

Notice that these forerunners do not use the word happiness but rather the word joy. Joy goes far beyond that which we humans regard as happiness, which is a limited sense of good feeling or a momentary sense of elation. Such feelings are lovely but restrained by time. True joy is not hemmed in by time and has a permanent quality.

Inner joy is not something that can be eroded by the twists and turns of life. If one is grounded in the true meaning of the Incarnation, then the present tribulations of life, such as we are experiencing in today's world are only temporary challenges. They will be like the morning fog that vanishes in the light of this wonderful manifestation of God's love for each of us.

We have Jesus' own words and his promise that even in this lifetime we can experience an inner joy that no temporal power can take away from us. As Jesus assures us in another place, "I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete." (John 15)

As followers of Saint Dominic, “the joyful friar,” we have a wonderful legacy as preachers of the Good News. Like Dominic who encouraged his followers to bring the Good News of the Incarnation to the highways and byways of his time, we too can announce the wonders of the Incarnation to a not-very-joyful world.

Wherever we are, let us be conscious of bringing to each other and the people we serve the tidings of great joy that God is now closer to us than we are to ourselves. Knowing this let us shout out to this world GAUDETE!!

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