December 12, 2023 at 9:41 a.m.

Rejoice heartily!

The recognition of Jesus’ presence is the way that we can live in joy.
WORD OF FAITH: A breakdown of each week's upcoming Sunday readings to better understand the Word of God at Mass.
WORD OF FAITH: A breakdown of each week's upcoming Sunday readings to better understand the Word of God at Mass.

By Sister Linda Neil, CSJ | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Gaudete! Rejoice! Gaudete is not just a title for this Sunday, but a command, an imperative. We are halfway through Advent and Christmas is imminent — rejoice! The readings this Sunday are rich with reasons to rejoice and ways in which we can live in that joy.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

The reading from Isaiah is from the Book of Consolation. The prophet announces “a year of favor” which is the Jubilee year, a time when slaves were set free and ancestral land was returned to families, a time when God’s vision of restoration was renewed. This is the time when relationships were repaired. No wonder Jesus used this reading as his inaugural sermon at Nazareth!

Isaiah proclaims that he rejoices “heartily” because the source of this joy is the LORD God. The Holy One clothes, wraps, adorns and bedecks us with justice which creates a beloved community. This joy is like creation completely enveloping us in beauty and bounty. The Kingdom of God is breaking in with great power and joy.

The responsorial psalm is actually Mary’s Magnificat, that jubilant prayer that declares that the Holy One has turned things upside down — attending to the lowly and those cast aside, announcing that no one is outside God’s love. God’s promises are sure and Mary will cooperate in bringing them to fruition as she gives birth to the Messiah. 

St. Paul joins in the ecstatic chorus in the letter to the Thessalonians. Rejoice always! Always? That’s a tall order! Some days there doesn’t seem to be anything to rejoice over. The world is dreary right now — war, climate emergency, financial woes. Perhaps our own lives seem dismal as well — family problems, illness, overwork. Yet Paul hints at how this joy is always ours. He says, “Pray unceasingly” and always give thanks. This is an invitation to remain aware that the Spirit is indwelling our very being. We have a wellspring of peace and joy ever flowing within us. Pausing, getting in touch with the Spirit, being grateful for what is life-giving helps us to hold the center. Most of all, we can rely on the surety of God’s faithfulness. 

Interestingly, the Gospel doesn’t overtly name joy. But the true cause of our rejoicing is found here — the announcement that the Christ is on the way, indeed is already “among you.” John warns that the Christ is not recognized by the leaders of the people. Recognizing Christ present in all of life is the challenge!

This recognition of Jesus’ presence is the way that we can live in joy. It is the way that we can live in the light that John testifies to — by living in an awareness of all the abundance that Jesus brings to us. We are bound in a kin relationship with the Lord of the Cosmos. Our baptism immerses us in connection with Divine Mystery. The lavishness of the Holy One is poured upon us and we are a new creation, born into every spiritual blessing in the heavens. These amazing gifts of grace are deepened and strengthened in the Eucharist as Jesus feeds us with his own body and blood and connects us as the People of God. Gratitude for this life that is ours bubbles up within us in joy that the world cannot take away.

Rejoice! Rejoice heartily! Proclaim God’s greatness! Don’t quench the Spirit! This is the call and challenge of Gaudete Sunday. It might seem a bit Pollyannaish. But look again, Jesus the Christ has made all this possible, all this is real in the life of every believer. Perhaps it would be good to read over the Scriptures of this day and reflect on what brings you joy in your relationship with Jesus, what are you grateful for, and what renews your spirit every morning. How are you recognizing Jesus’ loving presence in your life? Indeed take time to consider how the Almighty has done great things for you and REJOICE!


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