“Rejoice in the Lord always! I say again, rejoice! The Lord is near.” These words of St. Paul give us the name for today, “Gaudete Sunday.” Now halfway through Advent, the Lord is very near to us indeed. The joy of His arrival already fills us.
What is this joy which the Church offers us today? It is sharing in God’s own life, just as He became man to share fully in our human life. It is the gift of grace, and the foretaste of Heaven.
St. John the Baptist in his mother’s womb felt this deep joy. When Mary brought the Incarnate Savior into Elizabeth’s house, John leapt for joy. This joy sustained him throughout his life, drove him into the desert as a prophet, and gave him such courage and words of power. This joy attracted “the whole of Jerusalem, and all of Judea,” to hear his preaching. And when he saw Jesus on Jordan’s bank, this joy burst out from his lips in a great shout, “Behold the Lamb of God!” which we still hear at every Mass.
We need to be open to this same joy. Each of us, like St. John, has witnessed the great works of Christ. We have not only seen and heard these miracles in Scripture, but have received them in the sacraments. In our baptism, Christ turned our blindness into spiritual sight, and our deafness into hearing His voice. In the sacrament of Penance, lepers are cleansed, and even those thoroughly dead in sin are raised to life. By receiving the Holy Eucharist, the lame walk. And at every liturgy of the Church, the poor have the Gospel proclaimed to them.
We are given this joy especially in the Mass and the sacraments, so that it can sustain us in daily life, just as it sustained St. John the Baptist. We may not be called to live in the desert and eat locusts, but we are called to live with generosity, simplicity, and self-sacrifice. We are called to live for others; and even to accept suffering and trials as purifying us for union with Christ. The birth of Christ in us is possible only with divine grace and joy we receive from Scripture and the Church’s sacraments.
We are also given this grace and joy, so that we can reveal Christ as King to those around us. We are called to let others see how we follow Christ as our Lord and King. By their adoration of the infant Jesus, the shepherds and the Magi both did this. But since today is also the great feast of our Lady of Guadalupe, let’s take our Blessed Mother as our example in this. In this life, Mary gave us a perfect example of joyful obedience to her Son. Appearing to us now from her throne in Heaven, Mary continues to point only to Him. Look at her image in our shrine, so beautifully bedecked with roses today. When our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Saint Juan Diego in 1531, she invited an entire continent to follow Christ. She used her appearance, and the miraculous roses, and the miraculous Tilma, to show that she and her Son are closer to us even than we are to ourselves.
The Church offers us such joy today, in preparation for Christ’s birth. He is coming soon; will we be ready? Perhaps those of us who are here today will be ready. What about our family and friends and neighbors who aren’t here? The body of the Church is incomplete without them, and Christ longs to be their King also. Will we see them here at Mass on Christmas, adoring Him? May God give us the grace through our joy to invite them to know and to love our Lord Jesus Christ.