15 December 2012

GAUDETE IN DOMINO SEMPER!


Third Sunday of Advent
Lk 3:10-18 (Zep 3:14-18b / Is 12 / Phil 4:4-1)

Are you happy?  Are you glad?  Are you at peace?  Today, the Word of God tells us to rejoice.  No, pardon me, let me correct myself, it commands us: “Rejoice!”  Be happy.  Be glad.  Be at peace.

Today is “Gaudete Sunday”.  Today is the “Sunday of Rejoicing”.  “Joy” in Latin is gaudium and its verb form is gaudare, meaning “to rejoice”.  Gaudete means “You rejoice”.  It is an imperative verb; thus it is a command.  The Word of God commands us: “Gaudete!  Rejoice!  Gaudete in Domino semper.  Rejoice in the Lord always.”

Kaya, pakisabi n’yo nga po sa katabi ninyo, “Uy, matuwa ka!  Magalak ka!”  Tapos, utusan n’yo po, “Ngumiti ka!  Bawal ang nakasimangot dito.  Hala, ngiti!”  (Please tell the person seated near you, “Hey, be glad!  Rejoice!”  Then, order him: “Smile!  Frowning here is prohibited.  C’mmon, smile!”)  Ngumiti po ba siya?  (Did he smile?)  Perhaps, he did.  But, we all know that it is very difficult to smile – at least, sincerely smile – when you are simply ordered to do so.  Mahirap ngumiti kapag pinangingiti ka lang.  Hindi kasi iniuutos ang pagngiti.  Kinukusa ito.  We smile best not when we are commanded to do so but when we do so on our own volition.  To smile, which is a sign of joy, like love, is a decision.  Decide to smile.  Decide to be happy.  Rejoice!

Real joy – this is the desire of every man and woman.  The truth is, our search for true joy keeps us moving, inspires us to leave the familiar and take risks, gives meaning to our existence, makes us live our lives to the fullest.  We will do anything, we will go anywhere, we will search for anyone if only to find genuine happiness, authentic joy.  As Christians, we believe that we can find our joy only in Jesus who Himself is our joy.  The good news is Jesus wishes to give us not just kind of joy but His joy in itself.  The best news is Jesus desires not only that His joy may be in us but that our joy may be complete.  In Jn 15:11, He said, “I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”  Jesus is our Joy; there is no other.  A man may possess the whole world but unless he has Jesus he has no joy.  Jesus is not only one our joys; He is our only joy.  He is THE real joy.

That is why, in the first reading today, the Prophet Zephaniah commands us to rejoice, to sing joyfully, to be glad and exult with all our heart.  “For the Lord, your God,” the Prophet declares, “is in your midst.”  Interestingly, the Prophet Zephaniah says that the Lord, who is already with us, has not only removed the judgment against us, has not only turned our enemies away, and has not only saved us from misfortunes, but will also rejoice over us with gladness and, renewing us in His love, will also sing joyfully because of us as one sings at festivals.  Clearly, it is not only you and I who should be rejoicing.  The Lord Himself rejoices.  In fact, He is already rejoicing even before we rejoice.  We rejoice precisely because He who is joy Himself is not only already near but is also already with us, in our midst.

Pakihanap n’yo nga po si Jesus sa piling natin.  Kasama na raw po natin si Jesus eh.  Nakikita n’yo po ba Siya?  (Please find Jesus in our midst.  It is said that He is already with us.  Do you see Him?)  If we do not see Jesus with us, it is not because He is absent or that the Prophet Zephaniah lies; rather we fail to see Jesus whenever we choose to frown than smile at one another, whenever we opt to be indifferent than love one another, whenever we allow our selves become not only causes of sadness for others but also agents of false joys to them than becoming the presence of Jesus in the world.  Decide to become more like Jesus.  Decide to share the joy of Jesus.  Decide to help more people rejoice.  You, yes, you: rejoice!

The Apostle Paul repeats the command: “Gaudete in Domino semper!  “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again: rejoice!”  He gives us some signs that indeed we are rejoicing: our kindness is known to all, we are not enslaved to anxiety at al, but we live our lives always thanking God even as we make our request known to Him.  If we do so, our minds and hearts shall have no less than the peace of God that is beyond our imagining as the very protection of the joy that we have in Christ Jesus.  Such a joy, indeed, the world cannot give to nor take away from us (Cf Jn 14:27).

The peace for which our hearts are restless to have and from which true joy emanates will be ours if we ask God for it with the simplicity and trust of a child.  But the letter of the Apostle Paul today implies that we should not even wait until after God grants our requests before thanking Him.  He writes, “…with thanksgiving make your requests known to God.”  Clearly, St. Paul teaches us that even as we ask, we should be giving thanks.  Decide to be a thankful person, not a person who knows nothing better than complain about almost everything.  Fail not to thank God each day, but do not forget to thank people, too.  Be good to all as the Lord is always good to you.  Do not waste your life over useless worries; rather, spend all your life worrying how much more and how much better you can love even as Jesus loves.  Decide to be the kind of person that St. Paul describes in the second reading today, and you shall always rejoice.

Following the theme that the Lord is near us, St. John the Baptist announces in the Gospel today not only that he is not the Christ but that the Christ is already coming.  We know that the Christ indeed has already come.  We are, in fact, getting more and more busy preparing to commemorate His birthday in a little more than a week from today.  We also know that the same Christ will come again.  Are we as busy preparing for His return?

The question that the crowds threw at John the Baptist is the same question we also often have: What then should we do?  And the answer of the Baptist does not change: Live always in charity and righteousness, nothing more, nothing less.  Share your blessings with others: give clothing to the naked and food to the hungry, to name just two.  Collect taxes where taxes are due but collect no more than what is really due.  As no one should bribe anyone so, too, must no one extort from anyone.  Be honest and envy not.  Live by loving.  Love by living.  If we do this, peace will come to us as dew appears every morning, and real joy shall be ours.

Those who asked John the Baptist in the Gospel today showed their willingness to change.  Do we have the same willingness?  Just as their question is our question, too, may we likewise have an honest-to-goodness willingness to change our ways for the better.  Otherwise, we cannot really rejoice.  We may keep on greeting one another, “Merry Christmas!  Joyful Noel!” and drain our voices in singing “Joy to the world the Lord has come…” but we merely sound like broken records.  For, while indeed it is Jesus who brings the joy in Christmas, Christmas is meant to make us rejoice even at the slightest improvement we make in becoming more and more like Jesus.

Gaudete in Domino semper!  Rejoice in the Lord always!  Did you notice?  It says, “Rejoice in the Lord always!”  Always.  Not only on Christmas.  Always. And always in the Lord.

Gaudete in Domino semper!  Rejoice in the Lord always!  That is a command, not a greeting.

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