I am sitting down to begin writing this post on the Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday. These days it seems I can never get everything written and complete in one day without someone needing me before anything is finished. And here I find myself already Thursday, almost to the Fourth Sunday, first now finishing this. So this is life with little ones!
Gaudete is to rejoice, to have joy. To have joy, because Our Lord is near. To rejoice, because the birth of our Savior is drawing close. Joy, because our redemption is at hand. God made man, to save the world. To save us from our sins and to redeem mankind.
It is joy in hearing Gabriel’s announcement to Mary. Joy in Mary’s fiat, yes to the Lord’s holy will. Joy as Mary held the Christ child for the first time and pondered his beauty. Joy in the angels announcement to the shepherds. Joy in the Magi’s gifts.
The readings from Mass, were filled with calls of joy. Not mere happiness that is fleeting, but authentic joy. Joy that radiates from our hearts. Joy that comes from a relationship with Christ. Joy that is not shaken by circumstances.
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
It was just a short two weeks ago that I had the privilege and gift of going to Birmingham, Alabama. While I was there I made a visit to a beautiful Shrine 45 minutes north. Hidden in the back country, down winding roads, miles of white fence with cattle grazing, lining the way. It was there the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament was found.
The beauty found within this Shrine was breathtaking. After walking around the grounds and the inside of the Shrine, we returned to the main Church to spend some time in prayer. As we knelt down, beautiful voices could be heard on the other side of the altar. Voices in song, in prayer. Voices filled with joy and complete love of God. The Shrine is home to the Poor Clare Nuns.
As I sat there and prayed I couldn’t help but think of the sacrifice, devotion and love these women were filled with. While it may seem hard to comprehend as we live in this world, going through our day to day task, taking care of our family, our children, tending to our jobs. It was true joy that I heard. Although, they are removed from the worldly distractions we so often find ourselves facing they were filled with an immense joy.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;Luke 1:46
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
I rejoice heartily in the LORD,Isaiah 61:10
in my God is the joy of my soul
This time of year can easily distract us. Trying to fill our hearts with things that are fleeting or only bring happiness for a brief moment. I know I have found myself getting swept up in the worldliness of the season, instead of keeping my focus on the One who brings true joy. Joy that will not leave. Joy that permeates our hearts even when the pleasures from this world are removed.
The struggle has been real for me these last couple of weeks to want the house perfectly decorated, all of my Christmas cards in the mail and every task on my to-do list crossed off now. While these are beautiful gestures, when I have allowed them to become my focus I lose joy. When I base my day on what gets accomplished rather than was my heart turned toward Christ, it becomes difficult to rejoice.
True joy is not defined or contained by circumstances, decorations or presents or whether my house has toys scattered about or baskets of laundry to fold. While we may all have things on our Christmas list, the happiness won’t carry us through the year or difficult challenges we may face. What the world offers is fleeting. It is joy in knowing Our Savior that will accompany us, remain in our hearts and never leave.