On this Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday, through the Word of God, we reflect on our Advent journey and look forward to celebrating with overflowing joy, praise and thanksgiving for the coming of Christ.
We hear in the Gospel of John (Jn 1:23) how St John the Baptist, all those years in the wilderness, according to the plan of God prepared the way for the Lord. Like St John, we are called to be witnesses to the Light of the World – Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. Through our words and actions, we, like St John should “make straight the way of the Lord” in anticipation of His coming this Christmas.
How can we do this?
St Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians (2nd Reading, 1 Th 5:18) reminds us to “give thanks in all things”. When we reflect on the year that has passed, a year like no other, how many times have we thanked the Lord for his blessings on us? Are our families well? Do we still have a job? Are we thankful for the many people who toil through the COVID situation – doctors, nurses, first responders, delivery riders to ensure that the rest of us stay safe? Indeed, this is a special year where most, if not all our lives have been affected or changed. In these challenging times, have we managed to dig a little deeper within ourselves to reach out to our neighbour, to make their lives easier, better or to just to let them know that we care (1st Reading, Isa 61:1-2A)?
Have we made their path, towards our Lord, straight?
The blessing of hindsight enables us to reflect on the unexpected positives arising from this crisis – there are many newfound home-bakers and home-gardeners. Many have grown deeper in their faith by attending daily masses as they now work from home; many attend theology classes and rosary sessions, prayer meets and support circles that are now online, allowing more people to join from the comfort of their homes. As we discover new talents and deepen our faith, we should use these talents and gifts to become like St John, a messenger for the people to proclaim the coming of our Lord (Gospel, JN 1:6-7) this Christmas.
In the beautiful responsorial to the reading taken from Luke 1: 46-55, the Magnificat allows us to share our Blessed Mother’s unceasing prayer of thanksgiving and giving glory to God. Knowing our Mother’s constant care and love for us as her children, we can still be joyful in our hearts, despite all the challenges we face. Mary was no stranger to challenges as she faced her own “COVID” situation when she conceived by the Holy Spirit; betrothed to St Joseph but was pregnant, had no inn to stay when she was about to give birth and had Herod looking to kill her new born. Yet, Mary’s faith remained steadfast in God. She teaches us that we cannot rely on our own strengths, and that God is always there to love us and to protect us in spite of all that is happening around us.
This Christmas will be a very different from the many we have had through the years. There are less Christmas lightings in Orchard Road, fewer get-togethers and less dinner gatherings among family and friends because of safe distancing measures. However, just as how fasting, abstaining and prayer creates more room within our hearts for the Lord, perhaps these scaled down festivities will likewise grant us space to draw closer to the Lord – allowing us to contemplate the meaning of His birth, where we can truly rejoice with praise and thanksgiving in our hearts to celebrate the Lord’s coming.
Leon Chng, Mervyn & Christine Wong, Victor Chua