Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Joyful People

“I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul…” (Isaiah 61:10)

This past Wednesday, my third nephew was born.  Any time a child is born there is great rejoicing in a family.  Isn’t this what Advent is all about? We anticipate the birth of a child who will bring us great joy as my nephew did for my family this past week.  When I received the first picture of my sister holding her newborn son, I had tears of joy well up because of this great miracle.  No matter how many babies I baptize, no matter how many nephews, godchildren, cousins are born into my family, each child is his/her own gift because they are a unique miracle, a gift given to us by God to bring us joy:  just like the Christ child who comes to bring joy to a world overcome by cynicism and despair.  How can one look at a newborn child and not feel joy?  How can one not feel joy during this season in which we feel the presence of the Christ child?

The Christian must be a joyful person.  This is a fact that cannot be reconciled or debated.  If we profess Christ as our Lord, then we must be people that are filled with his joy.  Today is Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday in which we rejoice for we know that Christmas is almost here. The readings and prayers of the Mass today mention the words rejoice or joy no less than eight times so far.  We repeat it several times in the Responsorial Psalm which is Mary’s Canticle as she rejoices at what God has done for her and for her people.  It is indeed very easy to grow cynical and to let Christmas pass without being moved or without feeling some joy.  There are those among us who are genuinely going through some very difficult times because of health, loss of a family member, or financial difficulties that make it challenging to allow joy to enter our lives.  Yet this is the challenge of Advent:  to look past all the drama the world throws at us and allow ourselves to be overcome by Christmas joy. No matter what we are going through, we are called to look past all the negative stuff going on around us and embrace the hope that Christ brings.  As Christians, we cannot dwell or get stuck in what is going wrong in our lives.  Rather, we must rejoice with what is going right.  We must be a “glass half full” people that seek to spread the joy of being God’s children.  I read a beautiful quote this morning from Hilaire Belloc that says:  “Wherever a Catholic sun doth shine, there’s always laughter and good red wine.”  This quote reminds me of when Christ promises to be present where two or three are gathered in his name.  If Christ is present around those assembled in his name, then his joy must be present as well.  So do we spread the joy of Christ?  Or do we bring others down to the cynicism of a world that does not know Christ?  Our joy must be contagious!  John the Baptism pointed out in today’s gospel that “there is one among you whom you do not recognize.”  He was referring to the presence of Christ in our midst that we often cannot see because the world distracts us from his presence.  My friends, today we are called to rejoice for our salvation is at hand. Today we are called to rejoice because Christmas is almost here.  Today we are called to rejoice because, well, that’s what Christians quite simply are supposed to do.