Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
Our Rose vestments and the lit pink candle is a dead give away that something is different this Sunday.  In fact, it is called Gaudete Sunday from the Latin for the word “rejoice” and it marks the midpoint in our Advent journey.  I looked up the definition of rejoice and it said, “to feel joy or great delight.”  And joy is defined as “the emotion evoked by the prospect of possessing what one desires.”  The prospect of possessing what one desires, isn’t that a great description of what our attitude should be in this Advent season and every day of the year!  We are called to be a people of joy, a people excited about the prospect of possessing what we desire - eternal life with God.

At the very beginning of our liturgy as we gathered together for the opening prayer we heard, O God, who see how your people faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity, enable us, we pray, to attain the joys of so great a salvation.”  In a way that sums up the theme, the idea of Christmas and why it should be a time of joy.   Christmas is about God taking on human flesh, God becoming one of us.  Once divinity and humanity united, that means we can become divine - we can be part of God’s divine life, a life of love.  We are related through Christ to God the Father.  That is why we can, as we prayed, “attain the joys of so great a salvation.”   God has given us permission to be happy and Gaudete Sunday is a reminder of what this season and our life is all about.

That theme of “rejoice” was repeated in the 1st reading, the responsorial psalm and the 2nd reading but today let’s look at that first reading. 

It takes place after the Israelites have returned from exile in Babylon and they find their cherished homeland devastated.  Their temple, the very place where YHWH dwells, has been destroyed.  Has God abandoned them?  Why did he bring them back from exile to this destruction?  Ever felt like that?  That word cancer can leave us in exile, seemingly alone.  Where is God?  The death of a spouse, divorce in the family, children we never hear from, relatives that hate us, all these can leave us in exile.  Seems like there is nothing to come back to except devastation and destruction.  But Isaiah tells the Israelites, and us, that the Lord has sent him to bring glad tiding to the poor, to those who feel all alone, unloved.  To heal the brokenhearted, those whose old injuries, insults, snubs have turned their hearts to stone.  To proclaim liberty to captives, those held in the chains of grief.  And release to the prisoners, those locked behind the bars of old hatreds, disappointments.  How can this happen, how can our lives be changed?   What reason do we have to rejoice?  Where is the joy in our lives?  Isaiah gives us the answer.  “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul; because he has clothed me with a robe of salvation.”  We have been clothed with a robe of salvation.  God has wrapped our humanity in His divinity through the birth of Christ.  God has made us part of the inner life of the Trinity.  A life that is characterized by love. 

How do we bring joy into our life?  By refusing to hate and loving instead.  Don’t let worries about health, old disappointments, or hatreds steal our joy.  Replace them with love.  A smile, a greeting card to someone we never would have sent one to, all are ways to love.  And that love brings joy the joy is knowing God is always with us - Emmanuel!

Rejoice heartily in the Lord!