13 December 2015

I say again: Rejoice!

3rd Sunday of Advent
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Lay Carmelites/OLR, NOLA

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” Given the state of the world, it might seem irresponsible to spend our time rejoicing in the Lord. Shouldn't we be trying to solve the problems our sins have created? Shouldn't we be worried about poverty, terrorism, environmental destruction, and the collapse of our nation's moral conscience? These are the Big Issues, the Big Problems that need our attention. After all, the Lord can do w/o our rejoicing. True. The Lord is perfectly who he is and will always be w/o our rejoicing. He can do w/o it. But can we? Can we survive and thrive as fallen men and women if we fail to rejoice in the Lord? No, we can't. We rejoice in the Lord for the same reason that we pray, offer sacrifice and worship; for the same reason we give alms, spend our time and talent helping the Church. All of these – most especially rejoicing – prepare us to better receive the graces that God has already given us in abundance. To rejoice, that is, to immerse yourself in the joy that only Christ can give is to bring yourself into the presence of the one who is Joy Himself. As an effect of divine love, divine joy is Christ – unfiltered, undiluted.

The third Sunday of Advent is marked out for us as a day for rejoicing. Even as we wait for the coming of the Christ Child and the Lord coming again, we set aside one Sunday in the season to give ourselves over to the joy that only Christ can bring to perfection. The worries of the world are same worries that plagued our grandparents, their grandparents, and theirs. The worries of this world are the worries of a world ruled by the princes and principalities who willfully rejected the offer of divine love offered to them at their creation. These powers are incapable of love, immune to mercy, and utterly w/o hope. Why should the world they rule be any different? Their anxieties rub off on us b/c we live in their world. But we are not of their world. We belong to Christ and to him alone. It is in this knowledge and with supreme faith and living in hope that we can we say, “Rejoice in the Lord always. . .Rejoice!” Today is made holy for our rejoicing, set apart as a time and place for us to immerse ourselves fully in the presence of Christ who announced his Father's kingdom, who is building his kingdom even now, and who will come again to finish what he started. While we wait, we also rejoice.

And our saint for waiting and rejoicing is John the Baptist! He goes before the Lord announcing his arrival, baptizing for the repentance of sin, and anticipating the one who will baptize with the fire of the Holy Spirit. John rejoiced in his mother's womb at the arrival of Mary and the yet-to-be born Jesus. He spends his life in the desert, waiting for the time to go back into the world and herald the Savior's coming. Today we take just one day to bask in Christ's joy before we go back into the world and herald the Savior's arrival. Because we have a job to do – a holy job – we do not have the time or the energy or the patience to endure the worries of the world. The world created its worries; let the world deal with them. Our task is to be Christs in the world while never being of the world. Our task is to defeat sin and death with the mercy and love that Christ freely, abundantly gives. Our task is to go out, wherever it is that we belong and thrive, to go and herald the arrival of Christ, announcing to all who will hear, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!”

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