That’s what the main theme of the 3rd Sunday of Advent reminds us of. There is joy in this season of Advent even as we prepare ourselves for the birth of Christ with practices of penance that are proper to this season.
The 3rd Sunday of Advent is also called the “Gaudete” Sunday. The expression comes from the entrance antiphon of the Mass that cites some words of St. Paul, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.” (Phil 4,4)
It’s important that we don’t lose sight of our need for joy even as we go through the exercise of penance which is what is called for in this season of Advent. And that’s because, as St. Paul said, the Lord is near. This piece of news should gladden our heart even as we intensify our penitential acts to prepare ourselves properly to receive him.
This Good News, which with faith we can consider as already done, should remind us of the bigger picture about ourselves. We come from God and not just from our parents. We are meant to be with God in our definitive state of life in eternity. Our life here on earth is simply a training and testing ground to see if what God wants us to be is also what we want to be.
Joy is the ideal condition for us to be in while we are here on earth. Yes, even when we encounter difficulties and all the negative things in life, we can and should try to live in joy, but understanding it as a joy in and with Christ. Especially in these pandemic times, we should avoid feeling sad, empty, helpless, or feeling overwhelmed.
This was what Christ promised to give us if we are united to him, like a branch to the vine. “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love,” he said. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (Jn 15,10-11)
With these words, we are clearly told where our true and complete joy will come from. It’s from Christ, from God, and not just from some earthly and temporal source. It’s a joy that we can always have in any season or weather, fair or foul. It’s a joy that transcends whatever earthly and temporal condition we may be in. Whether we are up or down, successful or defeated and lost, we can still have that joy.
We need to work out our true union with Christ to have this kind of joy. To be sure, Christ is already with us. We should just be with him. And it’s not difficult to be with Christ, because he is already with us always. Being the pattern of our humanity, the savior of our damaged humanity, he cannot be absent from us. It’s rather us who can dare to ignore and resist him. We have to be wary of that tendency and do something about it.
For this, we really have to activate our faith that, if lived well, can always give us hope, in spite of the tragedies that we can encounter in life. Faith lived well also gives us the ability to love everybody, whatever the conditions may be. A faith-based love makes everything beautiful and lovable, even if by worldly standards things are bad and ugly. This is what makes us live in joy despite whatever!*