The Third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means “joy,” and in the readings we repeatedly are told to rejoice in the Lord. Saint Paul goes so far, in the second reading, to tell us to “rejoice always.”
I recently was at the funeral of a friend who had died very suddenly and unexpectedly. His family had been devastated, and they will be dealing with great sorrow at their loss for months and years to come. Yet, what was obvious in this family was that even in the midst of their grief and shock, there was great joy. First of all, there was the joy of having had such a wonderful husband and father and grandfather in their lives. Even in this time of loss, they know that they were richly blessed. And there was joy in the gift of one another. The great love that they had for each other was, and has been, obvious to anyone who knows them. Finally, they were filled with joy because of their faith. They know that their God is with them through this crisis, and their faith tells them that they will see their father and husband again one day.
My friends were able to find joy even in such a terrible time because they are joy-filled people on a regular basis. This is who they are. And their joy is grounded in their faith. Because they know God, they know that no tragedy is the final word. There is hope and there is joy, even on the darkest days.
This is what Saint Paul knew and wanted us to know when he wrote that we should rejoice always. We do not rejoice because our loved ones die, but in spite of that fact. We do not rejoice because we have lost a job, or had some other kind of major setback in life, but in spite of our struggles, we rejoice. As we are told in Romans 8, “We are more than conquerors because of him who loves us.” We do not rejoice because everything in our lives is wonderful, but because we know that our God is greater than any problem or difficulty that we face.
So, rejoice in the Lord always! Again I say, rejoice!
Fr. Mike Comer