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by Sr. Gladys Guenther

Well here we are, decked out in rose and told to rejoice.

I’d like to reflect upon today’s rejoice theme by looking at it in the past, present, and future – something similar to the Christmas Carol story with the three ghosts.

Welcome to Advent Past

We are going to begin Advent Sunday 3 – Past, with a little history test. I promise it will not be scary. You have the word-answers in front of you.

We’ll have a little catechism question and answer session; you can answer out loud.

Q/ What is this Sunday called in Latin?
A/ Gaudete, or Rejoice in English.

Q/ The season of Advent originated as a fast of how many days? A/ Forty days of fasting in preparation for Christmas.

Q/ When did it begin? A/ The day after the Feast of St. Martin (12 November).
Commentary: It was, therefore, often called “St. Martin’s Lent” — a name by which it was known as early as the fifth century.

Q/ In the ninth century, the duration of Advent was reduced to four weeks,
but it was still considered to be what kind of a season?
A/ Penitential season.

Q/ What were some audio and visual signs of that penance?
A/ No Gloria, no flowers, no organ music – and for SHF, no Christmas
cards or visitors during Advent!

Q/ What is the spirit of the Liturgy all through Advent?
A/ It is one of expectation and preparation for the feast of Christmas, as
well as for the second coming of Christ.

Commentary: Which made it a kind of counterpart to Lent; it signifies the nearness of the Lord’s coming.

The penitential exercises suitable to that spirit are thus on Gaudete Sunday suspended, as it were, for a while in order to symbolize that joy and gladness in the promised Redemption.

Most of us have not been fasting since November 12th and may not need to “suspend” the practice on this half point day. After all, in our country the first few weeks of December are filled with anything except penance: Thanksgiving and post-Thanksgiving festivities, shopping – marathon shopping, eating, parties, St. Nicholas, St. Lucy, Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Immaculate Conception. But there is still time.

A question for personal reflection: How are you doing penance in the midst of all this joy?

Welcome to Advent Present

Recently someone wrote you a letter about Joy.
Q/ Who was it?
A/ Pope St. Francis wrote an apostolic exhortation, a teaching letter
entitled: Evangelii Gaudium, or The Joy of the Gospel. Here is how he
begins:

  1. 1. The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.
  2. The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ.
  3. I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord.” The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms.
  4. There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved. I understand the grief of people who have to endure great suffering, yet slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slow¬ly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even amid the greatest distress.
  5. Sometimes we are tempted to find excuses and complain, acting as if we could only be happy if a thousand conditions were met. To some extent this is because our “technological society has succeeded in multiplying occasions of pleasure, yet has found it very difficult to en-gender joy.” I can say that the most beautiful and natural expressions of joy which I have seen in my life were in poor people who had little to hold on to. I also think of the real joy shown by others who, even amid pressing professional obligations, were able to preserve, in detachment and simplicity, a heart full of faith. In their own way, all these instances of joy flow from the in¬finite love of God, who has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ. I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”

A question for personal reflection: Do I intend to read the Pope’s exhortation, will I risk being a joyful Christian?

Welcome to Advent Future

The third ghost in the Christmas carol gives a glimpse of what life could be like if Scrooge changed his ways and embraced joy as part of his lifestyle!

Christmas future emerges from the ancient scriptures which we heard today. Words from St. James: “you too must be patient… do not complain about one another, that you may not be judged…take as an example of hardship and patience, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” Now there is an example of living penance!

And the gospel leaves us with a question, “What did you go out to the desert to see? Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.”

A question for personal reflection: How do I want to move the future by being a messenger of Christ in my world of family, friends, work, and community?

It’s not too late. You have all the words you need at your personal disposal. Today we are encouraged to see how much real joy we can contain.

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