Joining a pilgrimage is an enriching experience but one of its hitches is that a cover from a pilgrim site to another would be draining. The good thing is that every after two hours, the bus would halt at a gas station or a restaurant for its obligatory rest. After few hours of traveling, upon spotting the road sign, “You are now entering (name of the tourist spot)” or ” (name of the place) is just 5 kilometers ahead,” the feeling of dullness becomes an excitement. Others begin to be awake. Some would clap their hands, or scream, or make a cheerful sound, or render a sign of joy because the long-awaited place is just at hand.
That mindfulness of anticipation is quite similar to what we celebrate this Third Sunday of Advent, the Gaudete Sunday. ‘Gaudete,’ that is, rejoice! It is a time to be joyful because the coming of the Lord (His birthday, Christmas) is near!
What are our reasons to be joyful? It could be an answered prayer, a recovery from sickness, a good harvest, for having passed an examination, for being hired for a job, for having won a contest, etc. In the First Reading (Is 61:1-2a, 10-11), Isaiah tells us of his reasons: “(…) for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice (…).” In the Psalm, the psalmist says: “(…) for he has looked upon his lowly servant (…), he has done great things for me (…), he has mercy on those who fear him (…), he has filled the hungry with good things (…), he has remembered his promise of mercy. In the Second Reading (1 Thes 5:16-24), St. Paul expresses, “to rejoice always. Pray without ceasing, (…) give thanks (…).” However, in the Gospel (Jn 1:6-8, 19-28), to be joyful is “(…) for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.”
We have compelling grounds to be happy, to be joyful, to be thankful! Another cause is the event – Christmas! The readings attest that this must be the greatest reason: not the event but the Person, Jesus Christ Himself! The First Reading declares “I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul.” The Psalm echoes the same song of rejoicing: “My soul rejoices in my God; (..) my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” The Second Reading testifies to “rejoice always (…) for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
Brethren, above all our good reasons for rejoicing, particularly in this season is God. That’s why, John the Baptist is joyful, too for having testified for Him: “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” In the opening of the Gospel according to John, the Evangelist speaks of “the Word” (the Logos) who “was with God” and He “was God” (Jn 1:1). In verse 14, he reveals “the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us (…).” The Logos became flesh (sarx) and “we saw His glory (…) the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14). He is the real reason and the source of our joy to Whom John the Baptist gives testimony.
As we prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord by participating in the Simbang Gabi, Misa de Gallo, Advent recollection, spiritual exercises, Lectio Divina, charitable works, among others, may we value more the most significant reason for our happiness – the Person of Jesus, our Emmanuel. He continues to lovingly journey with us until we all arrive in the kingdom of the Father. May the sharing of our material blessings to poor ones, the aged, the imprisoned; the exchanging gifts; the partying with barkadas, classmates, officemates; the visiting of family and relatives, etc. are genuine manifestations of our deep faith and real joy within and among us.
Fray Anthony P. Irineo, OAR