“Don’t let anyone rob you of your joy, Will.” These were my mom’s words almost every day when I got out of the car to go to school. They were words that I did not understand well when I was thirteen years old.
RCIA What is Baptism? – WLR Homilies
At that age, I couldn’t think of many places with less joy for me as my public “middle school”. That is why my mother’s words remained mysterious for many days. Joy came and evaporated in a way difficult to understand. I had friends and a few joys, but the joys soon vanished after they came.
So, I rejected the idea that I was going to have joy at all times. I rejected that this was a possibility.
Maybe you also have stories of times in your life that were difficult. Maybe you’re in the middle of one of these times right now. Although we are fortunate to live here in a place with many resources, the pandemic has caused much suffering. Many have lost loved ones. More have lost jobs. We have all lost parts of our lifestyles. We use a mask. We constantly have to ask ourselves if we are going to give COVID to someone else.
All of this can cause us to also reject that it is possible for us to rejoice at all times. But as Christians this attitude comes with a problem. Saint Paul commanded us in the second reading to “Live always joyful, pray without ceasing, give thanks on every occasion.” And today in the church calendar is called “Gaudete” Sunday from the first word in the antiphon at the entrance “Gaudete.” Gaudete means “Always be joyful,” or “rejoice.” It is in the imperative. It is not a suggestion but a command. It is a word of command for us as Christians.
How can we explain or how can we solve this problem?
We must remember that Saint Paul was in prison when he wrote these words. Paul was not in an ideal world, but like us he lived in a world with suffering and many problems.
All of this gives his words more power. He wrote to his loved ones from jail, knowing that he would probably never see them again. And their message is, rejoice. The letter to the Philippians is full of admonitions to rejoice.
Brothers and sisters, how can we rejoice like Saint Paul? The first step, I believe is to admit that we are prisoners. Our prisons can be sins, addictions, bad habits, weakness. But also, we frequently suffer the effects of original sin such as physical illness and mental anxieties. So, we also suffer the effects of the sins of others in our society; sins cause a lot of trouble. They imprison us. We need as savior.
But still with Saint Paul we have to rejoice. Why? Because, although the situation is so difficult, the Lord is already very close. He’s already with us, he’s come. At the same time, it will come. Rose (in which I am dressed today) is the color of the dawn that comes after a long cold winter night.
Dawn promises noon with its fullness of light and warmth, although these are not yet obvious at this time.
The light dawns from the horizon and gives us hope.
For a Christian still on his journey in the world, joy and happiness come from hope. The Christian does not wait on a particular thing in the world, but the Dawn who has already dawned.
Hope is the firm determination to go back and face the east to greet the son of man who is coming. Therefore, hope changes us now while at the same time directing us to the future that is not yet fulfilled.
The Holy Eucharist is the sign and sacrament of this most excellent hope. In the holy Eucharist we already have heaven. In fact, the Lord is near – He is present here. He did not abandon us. He is already here. He was, is and is still going to come in glory. And then, even though we are in our prisons, we can have joy because the Lord is here.
In these days of Advent, we have asked the question, how do we wait?
We do not get to choose whether or even how long we wait, but we do get to choose how we wait. We wait because we are human; but how we wait determines whether we flourish or fail as human persons. How we wait matters as Christians because it determines whether we will be able to receive him with joy when he comes.
So how do we Christians wait?
We always wait with our eyes fixed upon heaven. We wait with eyes fixed on heaven because we need a heavenly savior.
We wait together because together we are and will be saved.
We wait with joy because the Lord is near.
We know that what my mom told me is true. No one can rob you of the joy that is yours in the hope that is yours in Christ our Lord. The dawn has broken upon us.
We can reject it with sins. But no one can steal it from us.
If we have turned our backs at dawn for sinning, if we have chosen to look into the darkness instead of the dawning light, God still gives us grace to convert to him.
The joy is yours. For God really loves you and I.
We joyfully wait together with eyes fixed on heaven because we need a heavenly savior and he will save us together. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!