“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice! The Lord is near” (Phil 4.4-5)
Gaudete! We light three candles on the Advent wreath as we begin the third week of Advent, acknowledging that “we look forward to the birthday of Christ.” This Sunday, often referred to as Gaudete Sunday, receives its name from the first Latin word of the entrance antiphon, “Rejoice.” This antiphon is based on the second letter of Year C from the letter of Paul to the Philippians. Of all of Paul’s letters, Philippians resonates with Paul’s gratitude for a community that is active in receiving the good news and putting this message into practice. The Philippians were a group of prayer and trust in the power of God and generosity to both people of their community and outsiders. Paul has also been supported by the Philippians and his joy and gratitude for this community are obvious in the letter, presenting the Philippians as models to imitate.
Today’s liturgy strongly invites us to rejoice. The liturgy moves our attention away from the second coming and begins to focus on the coming of Christ in the flesh at Christmas. Joyous anticipation is a hallmark of today’s liturgy, a joy and anticipation that should be shown in a willingness to live according to the peace of God. In what way do I rejoice in the Lord? To what level is my trust in God enabling me not to be overwhelmed by anything? Do I thank God for the everyday events of my life? If we are conscious of God’s loving and joyful presence in our midst and in the midst of our world, where the Good News is fulfilled in the here and now, we will live a joy born out of hope. We are called to live and rejoice, spreading that profound joy in our home, work place, neighborhood, in our world. May our joy show everyone that to believe and hope in God is the greatest gift, a gift that is worth accepting and giving it to others.