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Gaudete in Domino Semper (Rejoice in the Lord Always)


Fr. T J. Puliyan, MSFS

This third Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudete” Sunday because today’s Mass begins with the opening antiphon, “Gaudete in Domino Semper” (“Rejoice in the Lord always”). Today we light the rose candle of the Advent wreath, and the priest may wear rose vestments to express our communal joy in the coming of Jesus as our SaviorWe rejoice because a) we celebrate the day of Christ’s birth, b) we recognize Jesus’ daily presence in our midst, and c) we wait for Christ’s return in glory. All the readings of today suggest us to “Rejoice!” We are to rejoice mainly by realizing the presence of Jesus in our midst, by receiving Jesus into our lives through our repentance, our renewal of life, and by doing God’s will.

In today’s first reading, the prophet Zephaniah (3:14-18) encourages Jerusalem and Israel to shout with joy for their expected deliverance by the Lord. This prophetic proclamation was made at the height of the Jewish exile when things appeared hopeless and unbearable. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Is 12:6), the prophet Isaiah gives the same instruction, “Shout with exultation, O city of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” In the second reading, St. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians (4:4-7), echoes this message of joy: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again, rejoice… The Lord is in your midst… Fear not… be not discouraged… The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all….” Paul was imprisoned when he made this appeal for rejoicing.

In the Gospel according to Luke (3:10-18), John the Baptist explains the secret of Christian joy as our wholehearted commitment to God and doing His will. John challenges people to a sense of fairness and generosity so that others may have reason to rejoice. According to John, happiness comes from doing our duties faithfully, doing good for others, and sharing our blessings with others in need. John’s call to repentance is a call to joy and restoration. Repentance means a change in the purpose and direction of our lives. John tells the people to act with justice, charity, and honesty, letting their lives reflect their transformation.

For us, that transformation occurs when Christ enters into our lives, and it is to be reflected in our living in the ways John suggests. John advises people not to be dreamers or planners only, but doers moved by sincerity and commitment. John tells us to share what we have, our clothes and food, with those in need. If we are really sorry for our sins, that is, if we really want to change our lives, we will have to become brothers and sisters to all others, including strangers.  John preaches against greed, selfishness, and the abuse of power and position. He advises everyone not to practice extortion or blackmail but to be content with their pay or rations and provisions.

Yes, dear brothers and sisters, John the Baptist, the stern and uncompromising preacher, challenges our superficial attempts of change but demands that we take a deeper look at ourselves. Obeying the commandments is a good start, but we must examine our relationships with others. We must mend ruptures, ease or eliminate frictions, face family responsibilities, work honestly, and treat others justly, and our domestic and social lives must be put in order. We must abandon our selfish thirst for consumption and instead be filled with the expectation of Jesus’ coming. Let us repent and reform our lives and prayerfully wait for the Messiah.

In the light of John’s advice, we might consider what we can do and share with others during this Christmas. He does not ask us to give everything we have but only to share. Hence, let us celebrate the memory of Jesus’ first advent at Bethlehem, prepare for Jesus’ daily advent into our lives by welcoming others lovingly and serving them joyfully as we would do to Jesus Himself. Let us be aware of the presence of Jesus in our souls and lives and wait for Jesus’ “second coming” (“Parousia”) at the end of the world, with joyful expectation. Let us remember that we are Christians called to be rejoicing, hopeful and joyful in all times and seasons as the Saviour is on the way to our world and our lives. God bless us all.

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