HOMILY FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C
THEME: REJOICE: GOD IS IN YOUR MIDST.
There is a story told of two friends in a certain remote village. One was rich but always sad and gloomy, while the other was poor but always happy and joyful. One day, the happy (the poor) one said to the rich (unhappy) one-’what’s the matter with you, I see that you are always sad and gloomy’. The rich (unhappy) one replied ‘oh it is my life, when I think of it I feel very bad and become so sad. For I have all the riches in this world but I am genuinely not a happy person, but when I look at you I see that even though you are poor, you are always happy. And so I wonder, the authenticity of man’s happiness .
My dear Christ’s Faithful, this story describes for us the situation of man in his search for true happiness. Some people are of the view that happiness is to be derived from material possessions and as a result spend all their life in this search only to discover that true happiness is not dependent on one’s riches. The liturgy of this Sunday therefore proposes to us the genuine source of man’s happiness. As a result , the third Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as Gaudete Sunday and this name is derived from the first word of the Entrance Antiphon of this Mass which reads ‘Rejoice, in the Lord always; again I say rejoice’( Phil 4:4-5) or in Latin as ‘ Gaudete in Domino semper, iterum dico, gaudete’.
Beloved in Christ, Mother Church on this day, invites us to rejoice, specifically because God is in our midst. God then is the source and cause of our joy. This theme of joy is also highlighted by the use of the rose liturgical colour as well as the lighting of the pink Candle of the Advent wreath (the Candle of Joy or the Shepherd Candle). This understanding is confirmed by the prophet Zephaniah in the first reading in his hymn of freedom from the tyrant of Ancient Babylon ; shout for joy, sing joyfully, be glad, for the time of the exile(separation from God) is over and the Hebrews can now go back and rebuild their City and Temple. This notwithstanding, some people see religion as a hindrance to one’s freedom and are ashamed to talk about issues of religion to each other or their friends. Some even think that their reputation would suffer a blow if it were known that they had a strong faith, hence they hide it. For these people laughing with sinners is better than crying with Saints.
But in truth, my dear Christ’s Faithful, far from hindering us in our way of life, living with a strong faith in God brings us the true happiness we cannot find elsewhere.
Therefore, St. Paul in the second reading wrote” Rejoice in the Lord always, I shall say it again; rejoice or as another translation has it “I want you to be happy, always be happy in the Lord, I repeat what I want is your happiness. This Sunday is a celebration of this joy and happiness in the Lord. And to possess this joy we must be ready to give up sin so that we can live a life of grace with the Lord. This in the words of John the Baptist is a call to give up something; a call not to be greedy. Conversion then is a journey from being greedy, possessive to becoming unselfish. However, following the Lord does not mean we will have a trouble free life; to be happy in the Lord then is a call to follow the example of St. Maximillian Kolbe and Archbishop Romero- that joy can co-exist with struggle and suffering and what we need is the grace to see beyond the struggles of our life to the joy that only Jesus Christ can bring.
Beloved in Christ, after John the Baptist had preached and proclaimed the coming of the Messiah and the need to prepare , those who had listened to him asked “what then shall we do” (Luke 3:10). He replied demanding that they practice not only charity but justice. For the coming of the Lord judges all our acts; Christ is coming and when He comes, He will reward the good and punish the guilty. Again to the tax collectors, John the Baptist said, though the system might make corruption attractive and easy, practice justice; to the soldiers, he said be content and don’t use your position to abuse anybody.
Let us therefore resolve to prepare for Christmas by taking into account our own spiritual disposition.