Advent is rejoicing in God within us

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday of Advent-C, 12 December 2021
Zephaniah 3:14-18 ><}}}*> Philippians 4:4-7 ><}}}*> Luke 3:10-18
Photo by author, Gaudete Sunday 2019.

Our liturgy bursts in colorful hues of pink this Third Sunday of Advent known as “Gaudete Sunday” or “Rejoice Sunday” following the calls of our readings to rejoice in God’s coming and nearness among us.

Brothers and sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again – rejoice!

Philippians 4:4

We rejoice because of a person. Always. Gadgets and material things can never bring joy to us; joy is something deeper, touching one’s heart and soul.

Joy brings assurance of presence and of love; hence, joy comes only from another person for what he or she brings or for what happens to him or to her. And too often, it can happen that we share in another’s joy.

Now, imagine if the joy is coming from the Second Person, Jesus Christ the Son of God – it is “joy to the max!” as young people would say these days. Jesus, the Emmanuel or God-with-us who had come more than 2000 years ago, who always comes to us, and who will come again in the end of time.

To rejoice in the Lord as St. Paul puts it in our second reading today means to be one with Christ who is the source of “every spiritual blessing in the heavens” (Eph.1:3) in whom “nothing can ever separate us from the love of God, not even death nor any creature” (Rom. 8:38-39).

And that is the essence of joy: the firm assurance that when worst comes to worst in life, there is always Jesus Christ remaining faithful to us when our chips are down, when we are alone and abandoned by family and friends, even in death.

Joy is a result of salvation, of being free in Jesus

Joy is when the heart and soul smile even when we are in the midst of suffering. It is unlike happiness expressed by laughter or smiles that depend on external factors that trigger happiness. Joy bursts from within us, something automatic because of a deeper feeling of right there in our heart, deep in our soul dwells Jesus Christ, assuring us we shall never be alone. That is why we can rejoice while in the midst of pains and sufferings, unlike happiness.

In the first reading we heard four imperative verbs that call us to rejoice, each evoking God’s coming to save his people which is fulfilled in Jesus Christ:

Photo by author, San Fernando, Pampanga, 18 November 2021.

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.

Zephaniah 3:14-15

Here we find joy synonymous with salvation, with freedom.

The people of God at that time were in exile, feeling so low and so sad as they saw their plight as punishment for their sins.

Recall how when the angel announced to Mary the coming birth of Jesus, he told her to “Do not fear” (Lk.1:30) while Jesus himself told the same words – “Do not fear” – to the women at the tomb on Easter morning and later to his disciples (Mt. 28:10). Every time the disciples and the people were in danger and overcome with fear, Jesus always comes saying to everyone the same thing, “Do not be afraid…it is I”.

That is the most wondrous thing about joy – one experiences not only assurance of love and support, presence and security but one also becomes free specially from all sins and fears!

Such was the mood of the people when John the Baptist preached repentance and baptized people at Jordan. Even the most hopeless among them like sinners and marginalized people at that time felt joy within with John’s proclamation of the good news, of Jesus himself.

Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.

Luke 3:15-18

Luke beautifully summarized the mission of John the Baptist by saying “he preached good news to the people” (Lk.3:18). This is the grace of the third Sunday of Advent: that the Lord is with us, that he had set us free from our sins and from all our fears. Let us go out of our toxic relationships and toxic mindset to claim this salvation in Christ!

Like John, let us experience Jesus in our selves, in our lives in order to bring hope and joy to others by proclaiming not only the coming but the very presence of Jesus Christ among us.

See how John told the crowds to live simply so that others may simply leave while at the same time, he never asked the tax collectors and soldiers to leave their jobs by them to be fair and just with everyone.

Photo by author, San Fernando, Pampanga, 18 November 2021.

So many times in life, we desire so many material things in life because of our wrong belief we can only be joyful in life with whatever money can buy that in the process, we miserably forget to love and care for the other persons, especially those nearest to us.

We sadly realize later in life that what truly prevent us from experiencing joy are these things like wealth and fame we have tried accumulating in our entire lives!

As we have said earlier, joy can only come from persons, not things. Those people in the gospel felt joy upon listening to John’s preaching and experiencing his baptism of water.

In our time, we are called to be another John the Baptist but this time to baptize people “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” as commanded by Jesus on his Ascension. Moreover, this third Sunday of Advent calls us to emulate John in telling people to be vigilant for the final judgment when Jesus comes again at the end of time which is NOW for “His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” These we do with our lives of witnessing to the gospel values of Christ seen in the joy we have in our lives.

How sad that even Pope Francis had noticed early in his pontificate how many of us Christians lack joy in our lives, in our attitudes and in our faces specially when celebrating the Holy Eucharist.

Joy is the mark of every true Christian who rejoices always in the salvation and freedom Jesus had brought us. Let us share the joy of life in Christ not only today but everyday for Jesus comes to us in every person filled with joy, free from sin and worries! Amen.

Have a joyful week ahead!

Photo by author, San Fernando, Pampanga, 18 November 2021.

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