Is 61:1-2, 10-11; 1 Thes 5:16-24; Jn 1:6-8, 19-28
Isaiah says today: “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul.” What is the joy of my soul? Is it God or something else? Is there joy in my soul? This Gaudete Sunday, rejoice Sunday, is an opportunity to examine this. This season, Advent, is a time of self-examination. To read our shopping advertisements, to see our malls and hear stories of on-line shopping, we might get the impression that material possessions are the joy of our soul. Are our malls the cathedrals of our age? We know well that our possessions can’t save us. We will be gone and our possessions will survive us.
We also know that material things are neither good nor bad in themselves. It is our attitudes toward them that determine this. It is the same way with our relationships with family and friends. If these bring us joy, does this happiness remind us of God’s goodness to us? If so, we can say with Isaiah: “God is the joy of my soul.” For example, a young, newly married couple, who met through a Catholic on-line service, praised God for technology! Does our joy in technology lead us to praise God for the wonder of it all as this couple did? Or is our fixation with technology just that, idol worship? Entertaining this question can be a good spiritual practice on this Gaudete or rejoice Sunday. Again, Isaiah says: “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul.” What do we rejoice over? For what do we thank God? If it is our family, our relationships, we need to thank God for “joy of my soul.”
And, how do we spread joy? — God’s joy, to those most in need of hope as Isaiah did, as John the Baptist did, as Jesus did. Certainly there is plenty of darkness to go around. People need reminders to hope. That’s what our Christmas lights do. And it is turned into a sign of Christ’s tree, of suffering and hope: that death will be no more. That’s why we rejoice today. As we comfort the sorrowful, we also help them to believe that their burden is not all of life. Fr. Alfred Delp, S.J., says “Our world is more than its burdens…and the sum of gray days.” There is, he says, “a golden thread shining through” like lights on the Christmas and lights shining throughout the city. These reminders of God’s presence give us hope, joy, reminding us that God-with-us. Moments like these bring comfort and joy and renewed hope for ourselves and those around us. Rejoice! Christmas is near.