Father Bob’s Homily for 3rd Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday)

After wrestling with the readings for a couple of day this week, I came upon what I knew to be the perfect theme.  Joy.  Listen to the enthusiasm of the people as they exalt in God’s saving action so much they simply must break in to song.  Paul simply states, “Rejoice.”  And then, as if he cannot wait to exclaim again, “I say it again, rejoice.”  With Christmas so rapidly approaching the Church gives us this day we call “Gaudete Sunday” the joyous Sunday of Advent.  And I knew I would be rocking my rose colored vestments and we could simply speak of joy.
Then I heard the news from Connecticut and I thought that I must choose another path.  How could one speak of joy in the midst of such suffering?  But I corrected myself.  I made a mistake so many of us make.  I had confused happiness with joy.  Happiness is by definition a temporary state.  It would be the height of insanity to be happy all the time.  Joy however, comes from a place somewhere deeper.  It is a gift that God has given us and it can never be taken away.  It is that which allows us to know how blessed we are regardless of the shadow of the circumstances around us.  Happiness is laughing at a joke.  Joy is making a friend.
Perhaps a good analogy would be our lawns.  We try to keep them pristine as possible in the summer.  We water them, protect them and cut them; all the while knowing they can never look that good permanently at least not in upstate New York.  But we do what we can to extend the season.  Ah the foolish things we do for happiness to make that which must pass, last.  Joy is like a tree. Even when its leaves have fallen and its beauty has been diminished, there is still life within it; it is still a sturdy shelter.  It roots run deep and breaths in life in the midst of winter.  And when the wind buffets and the storm approaches, would you rather be a blade of grass or a tree?
Look at the cross.  Why does it stand as the great sign of our salvation?  There is nothing happy about the cross.  Jesus is in pain.  He has been betrayed and abandoned.  He sinks nearly into despair, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”  Yet, he is able to say at the end, “Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit.”  He is able to trust his God will love him, take care of him and save him.  That is joy.  That is the source of Christian joy.
Christian joy is simply this:  that we know we are loved.  Loved beyond all telling.  Christian joy is knowing we are never given up on.  That love endures.  Happiness is vulnerable.  Perhaps that is why we do so much to defend it.  But joy is always present.  It gives us courage and strength and faith and hope.  That is why the churches of Newtown are filled.  That is why last week they filled churches in Clifton Park.   That is why so many people in our parish who have felt the searing pain and have had the darkest of darkness descend upon them still come, because the need the inevitable consolation of Christian joy.  We need to know we are loved.
It why we gather around the table of God’s body and blood and around his word.  We need to remind ourselves of the endless promise of God’s love and dip into Christian joy so that we can attain what Paul speaks of in the second reading, “Peace beyond all understanding.”
So even in the midst of our hurt and pain, we rely on Christian joy.  How blessed we are to have a God who have given us inexhaustible love, who has promised to embrace us for eternal life.  Let us thank God for Christian joy.  In the summery days of our life it gives us the shimmer of exhilaration and a gleam in our eye.  Let us give thanks for Christian joy that in the most challenging of times, we have courage that only being loved can give us.  A determination in our Spirit and a sturdiness in our legs.  And let us give thanks for Christian joy that gives us consolation in the midst of heartbreak and hope that surmounts the most terrible of losses.  Let us give thanks for Christian joy for we are always blessed.  We are always loved.

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