Third Sunday of Advent - Year B - 14th December 2014

The Lord is Near

"Rejoice in the Lord always! Again, I say "Rejoice!" These words of St. Paul usher in the final weeks of Advent. Today is Gaudete (Rejoicing.) Sunday. The pink candle on the Advent wreath is lit. The colour of the vestment is rose, and the tone of the Liturgy reminds us that the birth of Christ is near. This truly is a time of joy.

But let us be clear, gaudete doesn't mean just being jovial or happy. Nor is it a state of contentment or naive self-satisfaction. St Paul tells us, "Rejoice always... In all circumstances give thanks." He's talking about a deep-down joy that is much more than mere cheerfulness. We've all known times when a lot of things were going wrong, and we didn't feel cheerful, and yet we were basically at peace with ourselves and with our lives. How do we get this joy? Paul says, "Pray without ceasing." For him this means being aware of God's presence, not losing sight of what we know by faith: that our God is our loving Creator who cares for and watches over us.

If God is on our side who can be against us? Christian joy springs from deep within our hearts and is born of our faith in the presence of God who is very near. This joy is so deep within that it remains untouched by outward circumstances and is not extinguished by suffering, struggle or sorrow.

We have the example of Mary. In her Magnificat, which is our responsorial psalm today, Mary acknowledges her "nothingness" yet proclaims the great things God is doing for her. Elisabeth quickly recognizes her as the "Mother of my Lord" and declares that as soon as she heard her greeting, "the child in her womb leapt for joy".

The centre of the Christmas celebration is the family. Whenever possible all of the family want to at home for Christmas. We come together to share past memories; to bring our gifts; to be present to one another; to feast together and to share our love. Joy and peace and love are the true gifts we give at Christmas. Rejoice! We celebrate the Father's gift of love. Jesus has come and lives now with us His people.

Let St. Paul's words be your guide for the season. "The Lord is near. Dismiss all worry, all anxiety from your minds. Bring your needs to God in every form of prayer. Then God's own peace, which is beyond all understanding, will stand guard over your hearts and minds."

Fr. Kevin O'Shea, C.M.