Today is Gaudete Sunday—
"Gaudete" is Latin for "Rejoice";
but it’s not a request—it’s a command!
That might sound odd, because nowadays,
by this point in December,
our "rejoicing" and celebrating has gone on
for two or three weeks, nonstop!
This Sunday is a reminder of a time
when that wasn’t the case—
when Advent was more penitential,
and when people didn’t have the abundance
we might take for granted.
A command to rejoice will sound odd
to some for another reason:
For many, this is far from a happy time of year.
If your life is in turmoil, or your family is torn apart,
or someone you love is far away,
perhaps in the military;
or if you lost someone you love,
particularly at this time of year—
you may not feel like rejoicing.
So what does a command to rejoice mean?
Well, it all hinges on what you think joy is.
The prophet Zephaniah, in the first reading, tells us.
He’s addressing his people, who are—like us!—
worried about the economy and the world situation;
and he reminds them the one reason they have joy:
the Lord in your midst!
You realize there are two Christmases,
two Christmas seasons?
Let’s call them "Christmas-for-everybody,"
and the original Christmas.
As we all know,
the Christmas-for-everybody Season
began weeks ago—
and it ends on or near December 25th—
which is when the Christmas you and I celebrate,
as Christians, is just beginning.
You and I usually celebrate both—and that’s fine.
But we might want to ask ourselves—
which one do we celebrate more?
I predict there are folks who will say
they don’t have time
to attend Mass for Sunday—the 24th—
as well as for Christmas, the 25th.
For some, that’s beyond their control, I understand.
But some who won’t have time for the Lord,
will have time to get the mall, or watch football games.
What does that say about our priorities?
As I say, there’s nothing wrong
with celebrating both Christmas seasons—
unless the hoopla of the one crowds out
the holiness of the other.
Another point about what true joy is:
If you’re grieving or in trouble,
"’tis the season to be jolly" doesn’t do it for you.
But there is a different kind of joy:
God is in our midst!
"The Lord has removed the judgment against you"—
and he is coming to save us!
That joy—knowing the closeness of the Lord—
is even more real in times of trouble.
You experience it deep inside,
and you may not be able to explain it;
but it’s a Fire that sustains you
when everything else is cold and dark.
I highlight this so that those of us
who are in a mood to celebrate,
can be more aware of those who aren’t.
Give those who are suffering a gift they can use—
not happy talk, but encouragement
from the Lord who comes to be in our midst.
And if we haven’t known the Lord in our midst,
John the Baptist, in the Gospel,
invites us to know him.
If there are people around us, friends or family,
who don’t know the Lord who is in their midst—
then God is sending you to share his Presence!
John the Baptist reminds us the Gift
the Lord came to give us: the Holy Spirit!
In baptism, we’ve received the Holy Spirit:
His Fire to transform us;
His Mercy to forgive us;
and his Power to help us become
the people we long to be.
If you missed the Penance Service last week,
there’s still time—see the bulletin for opportunities.
This is why what John announced was Good News:
God is near to us; God’s Spirit is poured into us!
He will help us become the people he calls us to be!
Like John, you and I are sent to share
the same Good News with everyone around us.
That’s the Reason for the Season;
that is what makes us rejoice.