14 December 2008. 3rd Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 61, 1-11; Luke 1, 46-54; 1 Thes 5, 16-24; John 1, 6-8.19-28
Many people have the impression that the core of Christian life is suffering, especially when Catholic popular piety have influenced a large part of their culture. But the readings today remind us that the center of our faith is joy. We light the rose candle as a symbol of this exciting expectancy. The mood of today is that of joyful anticipation when family members are sure to gather for Christmas. For Mary in today’s psalm and St. Paul in the second reading, the source of joy comes from a grateful heart.
First, this joy finds its source in the presence of God in our lives. It is not dependent on the things of this world. We can be happy wherever we are. This is easily understood by those who love. Whether they are in the rubbish community in Payatas or in the manicured lawns of a city’s park and gardens, lovers are happy because they are together. Their joy is not based on their financial situation or their economic status.
Second, this joy is borne from overwhelming gratitude. The prophet’s heart is full of thanksgiving for all the graces God has bestowed on him and his people. The heart of Mary leaps for joy because she couldn’t believe that the Lord did not forget her, one of those who are insignificant in society. And St. Paul reminds us to thank the Lord at all times.
We usually see that is wrong with ourselves and with other people. It is easier to remember the things we do not have, than the things we have. Those people who are very negative, pessimistic, and distrustful are those who have never recognized the goodness of people. They have generalized judgments because they have suffered traumas in their past lives.
In order to be like Mary, Paul, and the prophet, we have to gather our graces. We have to be aware of the gifts that the Lord bestows on us every day. People who honor their debt of gratitude to the Lord usually have attractive and amiable personalities. They are less serious and uptight. They are more forgiving and understanding. One can recognize these genuinely grateful people by the way they relate to people.
Third, this joy is the center of John the Baptist’s message. To those whose conscience keeps bothering them, John the Baptist affirms that reconciliation is called for. To those who carry some grudge and resentment that clouds and occupies their thoughts find it difficult to live happy lives. John’s message invites us to experiment: it is joyful when we love; it is joyful to serve others. And when one finds the joy as the result of gratitude, we become peaceful.
St. Paul affirms that we can find peace and joy when we pray. The very source is Jesus himself. We experience how the Lord loves us: warts and all. I have a joke:
A husband approached a doctor one day. He said, “Doc, my wife turned to be beautiful when she applied a mudpack on her face. Until the mudpack fell off... “ Mudpack or none, the Lord loves us. We do not need to pretend. We do not need to be afraid. There are many parables Jesus used to describe the Kingdom of Heaven. One is that of the wedding feast. We therefore should show to the world that we are forever at feasting.