Third Sunday of Advent (C)

“Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again: rejoice!”

These are the words of Saint Paul which we heard in our Second Reading this evening.  Saint Paul’s Letter to the Philippians is a letter that is full of love, full of peace and full of joy.  The interesting thing to note about the tone of this Letter is that Saint Paul was writing it from prison.  He had been beaten multiple times, he had been in a shipwreck, he had been almost killed several times and then he was put in prison because of his faith and he still told others to rejoice in the Lord always.  Saint Paul was so united to Christ that nothing could disturb his confidence or his trust in God.  He had placed all his hope in the Lord.

As Christians, we can be full of consolation and hope even in the midst of struggles and sufferings.  We know that the sufferings and struggles of this life will not last forever.  We know that although we are currently walking through a valley of tears which will eventually pass away, we have a Heavenly homeland which will last forever.  We know that happiness in this world is fleeting; we also know that we were made for something greater than this world.  We were made for union with God; we were made to be happy with God forever in Heaven.  As long as we are in this world we have to continually strive for next: keeping our eyes on the goal.

After instructing us to rejoice, Saint Paul further tells us that we are to have no anxiety at all.  Saint Paul was sitting in a first century prison (not likely a very pleasant place), waiting for word from the emperor to find out if he would be set free or killed for his faith.  Yet he wites: “Have no anxiety at all”.  “The Lord is near”, Saint Paul says.  His awareness of the nearness of God was the source of his strength.  We, too, are to cast all our cares on the Lord.  This is not to say that we are to be idle or indifferent.  It is human nature to have worries and anxieties, but as often as they come up, we should turn them over to the Lord.  We should bring all our cares and concerns to the Lord.  Our Heavenly Father wants us to bring all that is on our hearts to Him.  It should bring us great consolation that we have a God Who loves us so much.  If we turn to Him with all our needs, Saint Paul tells us that God Himself will guard our hearts and our minds.  It was because of Saint Paul’s great trust in God that he was able to be without anxiety and even joyful even as he was in prison and was faced with the uncertainty of a possible death sentence.

Our First Reading also focused on joy.  The Prophet Zephaniah told the People of God to: “Shout for joy . . . sing joyfully . . . be glad and exalt with all your heart.”  Why were the people to rejoice?  The Israelites were to rejoice because the Lord was in their midst.  We have even more reason to rejoice: not only do we have the Lord in our midst in the Holy Eucharist; we are able to be united with Him in Holy Communion every time we come to Mass.

The third Sunday of Advent focuses us on the joy that we are to have as Christians.  We are to be joyful at the nearness of Our God.  The readings are about rejoicing; the color of the priest’s vestment changes from purple (a color of penance) to rose which is a color of subdued joy.  We are now halfway through the Advent Season: Christmas is quickly approaching.  We know that our time of waiting and preparing is almost over and so we rejoice.

Our joy comes from our union with the Lord.  We were made for God.  The more we love God, the more we follow His commandments the happier we will be.  If you want to be happy, draw closer to the Lord.  Sin separates us from God.  Temptation tells us that sinning will make me happy.  Temptation is always a lie, of course.  There can be no real happiness apart from God.  If we stay united to Our Lord, we can experience peace, hope, and joy, even in the midst of difficulties.  Love, joy and peace are fruits of the Holy Spirit.  The fruits of the Holy Spirit are a result of the Holy Spirit dwelling within our hearts.

Let us continue to make use of this Advent season to prepare our hearts for the coming of Our Savior and Our King.  Let us all work to root sin out of our lives, that we may more fully experience the joy that comes from faithfully following Jesus Christ.  Amen.