Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gaudete Sunday

Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete . . . Dominus prope est. "Rejoice in the Lord always. I say again, rejoice! . . . The Lord is at hand!" (Philippians 4:4-5)

These words provide the name of this Third Sunday of Advent. At least from 750 AD - but some scholars say for hundreds of years before then - monks began the third Sunday of Advent by singing these words from St. Paul's letter to the Philippians. In Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions the priest wears rose coloured vestments, and the pink Advent candle is lit.

Where do we find happiness? Some say in power, others money, others the triumph of their football or cricket team. Lots of people look for happiness in art, music, and other creative pursuits.

But when you think about it, Father Joe Pelligrino was right when he said in a recent homily, "Happiness is found in relationship."

He then said: "The greatest relationship we can possibly have is the one that brings us the greatest joy. That is the relationship with Jesus Christ. Real happiness comes from the encounter with God. The relationships we have with other people all take their depth from the relationship we have with the Lord. People truly love each other when they see God's goodness in each other. When the relationship with God is not present, the relationship of two people is rather shallow."

That's why St Paul doesn't just say "Rejoice!" He says, "Rejoice IN THE LORD." He also said, our problems and difficulties notwithstanding, "Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS." Why should we do that? How can we do that? Simply because the Lord is "at hand." Jesus comes to draw us into his love, to reconcile us to the Father, to charge our lives with meaning, to give us a purpose and a future.

One of the great preachers of the early Christian era was Pope Leo the Great (c. 400 - 461). Here is part of his sermon on rejoicing in the Lord:

"Let the righteous, then rejoice in the Lord, and let the hearts of believers turn to God's praise, and the sons of men confess His wondrous acts. That after His great gift to mankind in making us after His image, He contributed far more largely to our restoration when the Lord Himself took on Him 'the form of a slave.'

"For the first man received the substance of flesh from the earth, and was quickened with a rational spirit by the in-breathing of his Creator, so that living after the image and likeness of his Maker, he might preserve the form of God's goodness and righteousness as in a bright mirror.

"But because he trusted the envious deceiver, not only did that one man, in him all that came after him also hear the verdict: 'earth thou art, and unto earth, shalt thou go,' 'as in the earthy,' therefore, 'such are they also that are earthy,' and no one is immortal, because no one is heavenly . . .

"But you, dearly beloved, whom I address in no less earnest terms than those of the blessed Apostle Peter, 'a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession,' built upon the impregnable rock, Christ, and joined to the Lord our Saviour by His true assumption of our flesh, remain firm in that Faith, which you have professed before many witnesses, and in which you were born through water and the Holy Spirit, and received the anointing of salvation, and the seal of eternal life."

(Go HERE for the full sermon.)


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