On the third Sunday of Advent, the penitential purple of the season changes to the colour rose and we celebrate “Gaudete” or “Rejoice!” Sunday.  It takes its name from the first word of the entrance antiphon – “Rejoice in the Lord always!”(Philippians 4:4).  But why are we joyful? Simply because our Saviour is near!

In the first reading, we hear the joyful message from the prophet Isaiah on the coming of the Messiah who “brings Good News to the poor, binds up hearts that are broken; proclaims liberty to captives, freedom to those in prison; proclaims a year of grace from the Lord.”   In Luke 4:18-21, Jesus proclaimed these very same words when He began His ministry, pointing out that He is the promised Messiah.  Jesus has come and “clothed us in the garments of salvation.”  In John 10:10 Jesus said :  “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  Do we rejoice in the abundant life given by Jesus or are we too steeped in our brokenness, distractions and earthly worries to rejoice?  The reading tells us that it is only when we let Jesus live in our lives that we can truly experience the freedom, peace and joy that no one and no situation can take from us.   Just as the garden flourishes after a season of barrenness, we are called today to let our hearts and spirits flourish again with the joy of Christ’s love.

In the Gospel reading, Saint John the Baptist testified that his mission was to “make straight the way of the Lord” and witness to “the One among you whom you do not recognize”.  In the midst of the festivities of the Christmas season that keep us busy, it is sometimes difficult for us to find Jesus, the true Gift.  But Saint John reminds us that Christ, the Light of the world has come to illumine our lives.  As children of the Light, Jesus has promised we will never be lost if we follow Him and that “He will prepare a place for us in the Father’s house and will come again and will take us to himself” (John 14:3). This is the reason for our joy.  As Pope Francis puts it, “Joy should be the hallmark of a Christian’s life, a reflection of knowing that one is loved by God, saved by Jesus Christ and committed to leading others to him”.  So, let us not only rejoice in the Light, but be a light for others as well.  The joy of Jesus can be truly be ours when we bring this joy into the lives of others.

Writing to the Thessalonians in the second reading,  Saint Paul enjoined them : “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).  The gift of joy is born from a continuous encounter with God and needs to be rooted in prayer and gratitude.  Prayer gives us the strength to navigate the journey of our faith. Giving thanks helps us to shift our focus from what is lacking, to appreciating God’s gifts and all that He has allowed to happen in our lives.  Saint Mother Teresa teaches us that we need to let God’s grace work in our souls by “accepting whatever He gives you, and giving whatever He takes from you … to do God’s will with a smile.”

On Gaudete Sunday, we are called to rejoice because the Lord is near.  It is the presence of God that brings us joy because He loves us dearly.  As we prepare to celebrate the nativity of our Lord Jesus, let us invite Him anew to live His life in us.  O Come, Emmanuel! Gaudete!

By Florence Ang