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August 14, 2018

THE REASON FOR OUR JOY

Pastors corner with Fr Henry Ibe
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The third Sunday of Advent is usually celebrated as Gaudete Sunday with rose vestments and candles used in many churches across the globe. The word “gaudete” is Latin for “rejoice,” and it comes from today’s Entrance Antiphon: “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice.” We rejoice because Christmas draws nearer, and so does our Lord’s glorious return. Our First Reading expresses humanity’s joy at the declaration of the Lord’s year of favour: “I exult for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God, for he has clothed me in the garments of salvation, he has wrapped me in the cloak of integrity” (Is. 61:10). The Second Reading encourages us to rejoice always and to give thanks to God in all situations. Andour Responsorial Psalm today is from Mary’s Magnificat: “My soul rejoices in my God” (Luke 1:47). Accordingly, let us rejoice and be glad because we have Jesus Christ, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb.12:2).

Jesus comes to save us, with a guarantee of everlasting divine fellowship. That is the reason for our joy which is founded on hope, not the blind optimism of the modern secular world, but the sure redemptive hope that we will see the Lord face-to-face in the end. Our Christian hope is based on the promise of the One whose word is “yes” and “amen”. Our salvation and fellowship with God is signed, sealed and consummated in the Blood of the Lamb. Thus, we rejoice even amid our everyday woes, and with confidence we echo the words of St Josephine Bakhita: “I am definitively loved and whatever happens to me—I am awaited by this Love.”This is the profound message of Christmas that speaks so eloquently at this time.

What makes our Christian joy unique is its connection to the afterlife. It is not based on situation of life here on earth. Unlike the world’s “joy” which is geared towards pleasure, the Christian joy has a supernatural dimension. That is why the holy martyrs would march to their death singing songs of praise. St Charles Lwanga, as he was burning at stake, said to the guard: “It is as if you are pouring water on me. Please repent and become a Christian like me.” St Ignatius of Antioch, nearing his martyrdom, wrote a Letter to the Romans saying: “Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, which are my way of reaching to God. I am God’s wheat, and I am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ.” That is the unique character of Christian joy – death-defying and awe-inspiring. It is not averse to hardship but rather embraces it as a stepping stone to glory.

Our Christian joy never fades, because it springs from a living relationship with Christ. That is why the Christmas tree is evergreen – a sure sign that our hope is enduring. Our Christian joy gets more intense as we advance in the spiritual life. That is why the vestments today are rose-coloured, symbolizing the threshold of sunrise in the morning. Our Christian joy, like goodness, is self-replicating – the more we give the more we gain for ourselves. This is the reason we exchange gifts at Christmas, as a measure of goodwill and solidarity with our brothers and sisters. This is joy unspeakable – the joy of hope, and Christ is its source. On the first Christmas Christ came to fulfil his father’s plan for a broken humanity. This Christmas he wants to come into our hearts for the same reason, to make his dream for our lives come true.

While on earth, he gave sight to the blind, hope to the poor, strength to the lame, and forgiveness to sinners.  This time he comes to continue the same work in us. As we are blinded by ignorance and selfishness, he offers us light in the teachings of his Church. As we are poor in virtue, he fills us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As we are lame, unable to pray as we should, to bear witness as we should, to love as we should, Christ heals and nourishes us with his very self in the Eucharist. He has a dream for each one of our lives, and he is coming to make that dream come true. That is the reason for our joy! Christ is the reason for our joy – the One who sustains all of creation, just as a singer sustains a song. Hence, we rejoice that God became man in order that we might share in the fullness of divine life.  This is the beauty and wonder of the Incarnation. We rejoice because Christ came to reveal the Father’s love, to atone for our sins, and to open the gates of heaven. We rejoice because he is coming again in glory at the end of time, and in our hearts this Christmas – to bring each one of us a new outpouring of grace, and a new flood of wisdom and strength to help us understand and fulfil the dream he has for our lives.

This week we pray for the strength to stay joyful in hope, no matter the odds. We pray for the courage to believe what the First Reading says that, “as the earth makes fresh things grow, as a garden makes seeds spring up, so will the Lord make both integrity and praise spring up in the sight of the nations” (Is.61: 11). And we pray for the wisdom to always realize that Christ is the reason for the season and the source of our joy. Amen!

 


 

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