3rd Sunday of Advent B20
Rejoice! The word “rejoice” is found in the 1st reading, in the Responsorial Psalm, the 2nd reading from Paul, and is somewhat implied in the gospel reading from John in that John the Baptist was sent by God for testimony, to announce the one who will be coming after him.
However this rejoicing takes place in somewhat strange circumstances.
In the 1st reading from a prophet who wrote under the name of Isaiah, he is telling the people to rejoice after coming back from the Exile. But, they returned to their homeland whose capital lay in ruins, the Temple looted and abandoned, the economy was almost non-existent, and their happiness replaced by sadness for their future. However, they are to rejoice nonetheless because a year of favor from the Lord is present.
In the Responsorial Psalm we read the Magnificat of Mary in which she answers Elizabeth’s greeting with a hymn of praise. But Mary is facing an unknown future, young, pregnant, and unmarried. Yet, she still rejoices!
John the Baptist have to had some misgivings as he told the priests, Levites and Pharisees (the power elite among the Jews) that they wouldn’t recognize the one who is to come. He foresaw that their preconceived ideas about the Messiah would not allow them to be surprised by Jesus but reject him.
No matter what else we may think about St. Paul, he was a great promoter of Gospel joy. Yet, he personally often found himself in circumstances not considered conducive to such joy: shipwreck, floggings, imprisonment, scorn, abandonment, and finally on trial for his life. The fact he could be joyful in such circumstances highlights the distinction between joy and happiness. Joy comes from within; happiness comes from persons, things and dreams that come true – all outside forces that may change. A major cause for joy is knowing the presence of God
Another thing about joy is that it doesn't necessarily happen when we get what we want. In fact, it is more likely to happen when we don't get what we are expecting, yet find ourselves laughing rather than crying because God's ideas are so much better than ours. It is in the empty-handed, I-give-up surrender that joy is most likely to bubble. I don't know why that is, but I know it is true.
Today our economy is not meeting a vast number of our citizens’ need for food, clothing and shelter. We are confronted with deep-rooted biases and the inequality they cause. We are experiencing the effects of climate change while some are saying: “Let future generations worry about it, if it real”. And let’s not forget the international pandemic which has killed hundreds of thousands worldwide.
How are we to rejoice?
We need to see with eyes of faith, that God continues to work among us, to recognize the sacrifices we make to take care of the whole, to acknowledge the individual acts of kindness made toward neighbors and strangers, to recognize so acutely what is truly important: family, friends, neighbors, faith, hope, and love. Perhaps God has allowed (not caused!) this worldwide pandemic to enable us to focus once again on people and God and not on possessions. God is still present in our lives. Rejoice always! Again I say, Rejoice!