Isaiah 61: 1-2a, 10-11
1 Thess. 5: 16-24
John 1: 6-8, 19-28
Me in my Rose Vestments (sorry for the poor image quality)
"Where Is the Joy?"
I want to begin this morning with a question. This is a question for the kids here today; grownups, you're not allowed to answer. So, kids, if you know the answer, raise your hands. The question is this [steps out from behind ambo]: What color am I wearing?
[A child answers:] "Pink!"
Well, that's close, but not quite right. No, the color I am wearing isn't pink, it's rose. It may look like pink, but it really isn't, it's rose.
Now, the reason I'm wearing such an unusual color is that today is a day of special rejoicing for the Church. Rose is the color of joy, the color of rejoicing. And it's so special that the priest may wear rose vestments on only two days of the year.
So why are we rejoicing today? Why is today a day of joy? Because the light is coming! The light of the world is coming, and will soon be here. John the Baptist testified to the light, and told us "prepare the way of the Lord make straight his paths!". We can rejoice today because we know that God's salvation is coming soon. We can rejoice today because we know that Christ has already come, and will come again.
To live a Catholic life is to live in a world of "both... and". Jesus has both come already, and will come again. God's salvation has both been given to us now and is yet to be made complete. Creation has both been redeemed, and that redemption has yet to be consummated and fulfilled.
And so today we rejoice. We rejoice because Christ has come - he came as an infant in Bethlehem about 2,000 years ago, and we will celebrate that coming in just two short weeks - and because he is yet to come, he is to come again!
That is why, as we heard in our second reading, St. Paul tells us to "rejoice always". Indeed, this day gets it's very name from rejoicing. Traditionally, this day has always been known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word for "Rejoice". And the old Latin chant that was always sung on this day also tells us of rejoicing. It began with the words "Rejoice in the Lord always", and it went like this:
[Sings beginning of chant] "Gaudete in Domino semper! Iterum, dico, Gaudete!".
[If you want to hear it, you can listen to it here. ]
Rejoice in the Lord always! I say again, rejoice!
We are called to live as people of joy, because God's salvation has been made known to us. God has given us the light of his Son, has given us, through Him, a share in his very own life.
You know, I have to wonder sometimes. Every Sunday, I come down in front here to distribute Holy Communion. And when I hold up the Host and say "The Body of Christ", I usually look right at your faces. And I wonder... I don't wonder about your faith, or devotion: I have no doubts about that. But what I wonder is "Where is the joy?" Because, as you come up to receive communion, many of you look like this: [I put on a downcast, gloomy frown.] It's as though you were coming up to receive a dose of medicine: something you know is good for you, but not necessarily pleasant at the time.
So I wonder, where is the joy? Where is the sheer wonder and amazement that God has so privileged us to come down to be with us? Where is the joy and awe that God should give us his very Self as food? Where is the elation that Christ has once again fulfilled his promise that He "will be with us always, even until the end"? Every Sunday is Christmas, every Sunday is Easter. So I say to you, Rejoice!
If you study the Saints, their lives and writings, you discover that they led lives full of joy. They were continually rejoicing. And that's not because everything always went well for them. It's not because they never had trials or difficulties. Indeed, they often bore tremendous burdens. They frequently met with opposition and frustration. It often seemed to them as though everything was going badly.
But they were able to look beyond the difficulties and trials. They were able to see through the setbacks and frustrations, to see that there were tremendous possibilities and wonders on the other side. They knew that the God who would see them through was the same God who came to earth on Christmas night. They knew that the God who raised His own Son from the dead would give them victory over their challenges. They knew that the God who was guiding and leading them was the God who was "with us always" in the Sacrament of the Altar.
The same possibilities that were given to the Saints are given to us. Our Lord longs, yearns, to make those possibilities real for us. The possibility of redemption, the possibility of transformation, the possibility of wonders and glories of which we can scarcely dream. Christ came to earth and died for us to give us all those things, and He will, if we but give him half a chance. All these things: possibilities of beauty and wonder and glory greater than the universe itself, lie in store for us. He wants to give them to us. He will, if we but let Him.
Rejoice in the Lord always! I say again, rejoice! The One who calls you is faithful, and He will accomplish it.