This third Sunday of Advent is known as “Gaudete” Sunday, or “Rejoicing” Sunday. The rose coloured candle on the Advent wreath is lit today. We remember that our reason for rejoicing is not that we think we are doing well, or that our Church is full of people every Sunday, but that God has entered human existence in Jesus who lived, suffered, died has overcome death, and remains God-with-us two thousand years later.
Fr. Robert Barron got me thinking about this during the week when I listened to his podcast reflection on today’s scriptures. He makes the point that the Christians are NOT optimists who always looking on the bright side of difficult situations.
You might recall the Pollyanna “glad game” where a virtue is made of compulsive optimism. God save us from such people since they are unable to see that you have entered every human struggle, and in Jesus you have made human pain and suffering an environment for divine activity.
Christians are NOT people who promote the power of positive thinking, or glad-game optimism.
Instead we are people of well-founded hope. Faith is not an avoidance of reality, but a founded knowledge that no struggle, grief or anxiety can separate us from the love of God. We have nothing to fear.
Too often we think that the joy we seek is the fruit of earthly success and worldly achievements. It is true that we like to do well, and we prefer harmony to anxiety, but the deep joy we are made for continues to call out from within, even when everything is going well for us.
Remember that the transformation of the world came through the birth of one child. Thirty years later he gathered a few hopeless followers who seemed to work against him at every opportunity. But the Spirit of God worked through them, using their human weakness as a capacity for his divine strength.
So whatever the difficulties we face in these busy pre-Christmas days, we have reason to rejoice. We are never alone. God is with us.