The Joy in Our Faith

17 December 2006: 3rd Sunday of Advent
Zephaniah 3, 14-18; Philippians 4, 4-7; Luke 3, 10-18: The Joy in our Faith

John the Baptist lived in the desert that is dry and covered with brushwood. Often this image is used to describe many Christians. There is a type of Christianity that is gloomy and dark. The type that thinks that our faith is a faith of seriousness and rigidity, marked by the strict following of rules that begins with “Do not...” The celebration of the 3rd Sunday of Advent is a celebration of joy where we light the rose or pink candle that symbolize joy. It breaks that misconception of Christianity as a religion of seriousness. Joy is at the very core of our faith. Paul set before the Philippians in the second reading the quality of joy: he stressed, “Rejoice!” When he was writing his letter to the Philippians, he was in prison almost certain of his death. But still, he said, “Rejoice!” The prophet Zephaniah also said, “Shout for joy!” You see, Christian joy is independent of all things on earth because its source is the continual presence of Christ no matter what situation we may find ourselves in. Take for example two sweethearts. They are always happy when they are together, no matter where they are. As long as they are together, whether they are in middle of the smelly fish market of Balintawak or the scented ambiance of caf├ęs, they are happy. Their joy is not dampened by their human situation. The source of their joy is beyond their life situation. They said, “kahit saging, basta loving.”

The message of John lays down important principles of joy. First, John stressed our social responsibility. He tells us that we should share what we have with one another. There is a certain deep fulfillment that we feel when we are able to help others. We find joy in giving, not in hording.

Second, there is joy in our daily, routine work. John said that our salvation is worked out in our daily work. John ordered that a person should not have to leave his job to work for his salvation. For example, many of us compartmentalize faith --- we do our daily routine as if they are separated from faith, and we go to mass to fulfill our duties to God. But John tells us that our daily menial work is part of faith. If one is a tax collector, be a good one; if one is a soldier, be a good soldier. Do not take advantage of one’s position. In our present situation: if you are a teacher, you will be saved by becoming a good teacher. If you are a student, you will be saved by becoming a good student. If you are church or civil official, you don’t have to leave your work to be saved, but do your job excellently and you will be saved. Our faith teaches us that nowhere can a person serve God fully well than in one’s daily work.

Finally, there is joy in prayer because we meet the very source of our joy: God who loves us. When we pray we remember the love of God, and only desires what is best for us. He the joy lies in the very quality of God’s love for us: He loves us for whatever and whoever we are.

A few weeks ago, a husband said to me: “My wife had a mudpack, and she looked great for two days. Then, the mud fell off.” (joke!) With or without the mudpack, God loves us. Isn’t this a real source of joy? It is not surprising then, that when Jesus described to us what the Kingdom of God is, he said, “a banquet” --- a celebration, a party, a gathering to celebrate. Because Christianity is about joy: we know when a person has Christ in his heart, because the person lives and exudes a certain joy in his heart. Perhaps a practical exercise: look at yourself in the mirror. Is your face exuding the dryness and lifelessness of the desert, or is joy emanating from it?

*the unique wedding of my friends, Dyu and Joy.

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