The words “joy” and “rejoice” are repeated throughout our readings for this Sunday. Therefore the Church designates this as Gaudete, or Rejoice, Sunday. We rejoice at this time because Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Christ, is so near. Advent used to be 40 days long, like Lent, and, like Lent, it was a season of fasting—no food between meals and no meat at all. The fact that Advent was nearing its end was, indeed, a reason to rejoice.
Saint Paul tells us in our second reading from his Epistle to the Philippians that we should rejoice always. He even repeats this command. “Rejoice in the Lord always! I shall say it again: rejoice!” These are surprisingly cheerful words from Paul, who is often quite severe and strait-laced.
He also speaks of the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. We know about the peace that we experience when everything is going our way and all is well. The peace of God that surpasses all understanding is a peace that is present even when things are not going our way, when things are falling apart, and we are dealing with difficulties and calamities. This peace comes from knowing that the God of love will bring forth blessings even from our trials and sufferings. He is in control, so we fear not.
Rejoice because of what is good in your life, and rejoice even in those things that are difficult, for “all things work for good for those who love God and are called to his purpose.” (Rom.828)
—Fr. Mike Comer