Homily from the 3rd Sunday of Advent ("Gaudete Sunday") - Year B
When the season of Advent was first celebrated in the Church, it was seen as a kind of “little Lent” marked by acts of penance, prayer and fasting. And in both seasons, Advent and Lent, one of the Sundays is set apart to lighten the mood a bit and encourage us in our prayerful preparation for Christmas and Easter.
The fourth Sunday of Lent is called “Laetare” Sunday. The third Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudete” Sunday and one of the subtle ways we rejoice and lighten the mood a bit is by wearing rose colored vestments and lighting the rose colored candle.
And for many, this time of year is one for lightening the mood a bit and rejoicing. There’s a dusting of beautiful white snow on the ground – and it’s always beautiful when it remains just a dusting isn’t it? We gather in each other’s homes for Advent and Christmas parties. Cookies and candies start showing up in our homes and workplace. We hear the beautiful sound of Nat King Cole singing “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” Johnny Mathis’ “Sleigh Ride,” and of course, Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas.” And the cards and letters fill our mailboxes.
So, I thought I’d lighten the mood a bit by sharing something with you that made me rejoice this past week. The 2nd graders wrote me letters.
Grace wrote: “Dear Father Andrew, Did you watch the Notre Dame game on November 26 on Saturday? I did. It was pretty good. I thought of you when we were watching it. They lost! I bet you were mad.”
Jacob wrote: “Dear Father Andrew, Hi. I have a question for you. What is it like being a priest in Church? This year I am going to have First Communion and Reconciliation. That is going to be fun. Do you like Notre Dame? I do too. I want to be a priest. Bye.”
Lucas wrote: “Dear Father Andrew, How is Mass going? Do you like being a priest? Is your day going good? Every Sunday or Saturday I see my friends at Mass! I pray every day. Praying is good, even if you don’t want to. Maybe I can pray more.”
And finally, Will wrote: “Dear Father Andrew, How do you remember all those words in Mass? We are making two sacraments this year. It’s a big year. Don’t eat the yellow snow.”
It’s the little things right? The little things that make us rejoice. It's letters from our kids. The coloring pages they give us that we display proudly on the refrigerator. Our friends that bring us joy simply by their presence. Because the littlest things make the biggest difference.
Like a tiny baby, born in an animal’s stable, sleeping in an animal’s food trough, who would grow up to do nothing less than save the world.
This little thing, this child is the source of all our rejoicing. As Isaiah says in today’s first reading: “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul.” As Mary says in today’s psalm: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” And as St. Paul says in today’s second reading: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstance give thanks.”
So I want you to do something before you go to bed tonight: follow St. Paul’s advice: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks.” Before you go to bed, mentally walk through your entire day, and rejoice, give thanks to God for everything He has given you today, big or small.
Thanks for the warm bed you woke up from.
Thanks for the alarm clock that kept you from sleeping too late.
Thanks for the hot water in your shower.
Thanks for soap, shampoo, toothpaste and deodorant.
Thanks for everyone else’s soap, shampoo, toothpaste and deodorant!
Thanks for a family that brought you joy or tested your patience and in either instance gave you the opportunity to grow in holiness.
Thanks for hot meals.
Thanks for warm clothing.
Thanks for Nat, Johnny and Bing.
Thanks for a vehicle that brought you to Mass this morning.
Thanks for the gift of God’s Son, Jesus, who gave Himself completely to you in the Eucharist so that you might have nothing less than eternal life.
Thanks for letters from your 2nd grader.
Thanks for friends.
Thanks for laughter.
And if it’s the case, give thanks to Him for being there always and especially when there aren’t things like hot meals, warm clothing, or laughter.
Yes, it’s true, sometimes we have good reason for not feeling like rejoicing. But remember that there’s always a cause for rejoicing: a baby born in a manger.
“In all circumstances give thanks” and rejoice.