Rejoicing in the Lord: A homily for the Third Sunday of Advent (B)

IMG_3912Today is Gaudate Sunday, Rejoice Sunday.  It is a day set aside to rejoice.  The color is a nice rose, because rose is a mix between the Christmas white and the Advent purple.  We are getting close. I think about Blessed Mother at this time and the joy she must have had in knowing she was about to give birth, not just to her precious baby boy, but to the savior of the world.  What joy!  Today we share in that.

Our psalm today is a bit different from normal. The response we chanted was from the Gospel of Luke. We echoed Mary’s words: “My soul rejoices in you my God.”  Isaiah says the same thing “I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul.”  And St Paul tells us the same.

Notice the theme–we are to rejoice IN THE LORD.  There is a human tendency to rejoice in earthly things: money, nice car, promotion, so on.  I just got a new pair of shoes the other day. I kind of feel like a new man when I get a new pair of shoes.  But it would be silly of me to rejoice in these shoes.  Because they will not last forever.  The time will come when they will no longer be shiny, when they will have holes.  If my joy were tied to my shoes, or anything in particular, then my joy is contingent upon something of the world.  Parties are great, bu they come to an end. New cars are nice, but they will break down one day.  Popularity comes and goes, and so do looks.  Even hair doesn’t last forever.  It is silly to rejoice in these things.

It’s not that they’re bad things.  There are many great and holy things to celebrate and rejoice in.  For example, this rosary.  I just got it the other day.  I visited the hospital twice on Thursday, and the first time there was this woman. She had this rosary in her hands. I said, “What a beautiful rosary!”  She told me how it changed colors when was praying it once. I’ve heard such stories before.  She insisted I take it.  I also got a few other rosaries that mean a lot to me, because some of our kids made them in rosary club for me.  I am deeply touched.  These are sacred things, but it wouldn’t be quite right to rejoice in the thing itself.  What happens if I lose one of them?  Or if it breaks? Or if there is an emergency and I need to give it to someone?   Our ultimate rejoicing, we save that for the Lord.  I appreciate these rosaries and will treat them with care, and I can rejoice in them…but only inasmuch as they help me with my relationship with the Mary, and ultimately with the Lord.  In him is my ultimate joy.

Even with people!  In a way, we should of course all rejoice in one another, love one another.  But people sometimes let us down, they do foolish and hurtful things.  Sometimes they flat out leave us in the dust. And people don’t last forever.  We have a family in our Hispanic community who just lost a 3 week old baby.  People don’t last forever.  While we should take joy in being with others and love them deeply, our ultimate rejoicing is in the Lord!

Because the Lord is always there.  He is our origin and our destiny, the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega.  We have the Lord always.  Here, at this table, is our ultimate joy.  So we don’t get the new job, or the raise doesn’t come through, or we get a B instead of an A….we still have the Lord, and because of that we can still rejoice.  No matter what might come.

A last thing.  Today’s feast is less about “getting joy” and more about “giving joy.”  If our joy is rooted in the Lord, then we must give people the Lord.  We must spread him.