Advent Commandment: Rejoice!

User's Guide to Sunday, Dec. 13

(photo: Register Files)

Sunday Dec. 13, is the Third Sunday of Advent (Year C).

 

Mass Readings

Zephaniah 3:14-18, Isaiah 12:2-6, Philippians 4:4-7, Luke 3:10-18

 

It is Gaudete Sunday — a day when the Church commands us to rejoice.

“Command” is a strong verb. To command is to demand that we leave off doing our will and do God’s instead. The Ten Commandments are commands of God the Father of what we “Shall” always and “Shall not” ever do. Jesus often “commands” demons to come out of people.

Jesus at one point “commands” us to love one another, too, which tells us a) that Jesus prioritizes love as the highest good and b) that love is a choice: It is not something we experience; it is something we choose to do or refuse to do.

So when we are commanded by the Church and Scripture to rejoice, we know that it must be something in our power and that it must be a high priority.

Says St. Paul in the second reading: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: Rejoice!”

The Church throws her weight behind the command, making it the entrance antiphon at Mass.

So what does it mean to follow the command to rejoice?

An answer, as always, can be found in the Gospels. John the Baptist is the focus of today’s Gospel reading, and we see him do three things:

First, he gives advice to the people. The crowds ask him, “What should we do?” His answers are very sensible: He wants them to share with those who have nothing. He wants tax collectors to be honest. He wants soldiers to be fair.

Next, he announces salvation from Christ, not an easy salvation; it is a hard one. The one after him, Jesus, will come; and “he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire,” he says. This, the Gospel says, is “good news to the people.”

So, we are to rejoice, and these are the two ways the Gospel offers: by learning to live our lives better and by the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives, the Savior who is coming to accompany us with his power and righteousness.

These aspects of God’s power in our lives, the Way, the Truth and the Life, have always been the reasons Scripture asks us to rejoice.

In the first reading, the prophet shares God’s words: “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart.”

Why shout for joy? “The Lord has removed the judgment against you; he has turned away your enemies,” it says, and “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty Savior.”

The second reading says the same thing. How can we rejoice? Because of our way of life: “Your kindness should be known to all”; and also because “The Lord is near.”

The letter says, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

We have been preparing for three weeks of Advent for the coming of Christ because Jesus is coming to reform our lives and to be with us. This is how he comes to us, and this is why we rejoice.

 

Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas,

where he lives with April, his wife and in-house theologian and consultant, and their children.

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