Year B: Year of Mark
Third Sunday in Advent
Second Reading: Thessalonians 5: 16-24
The third Sunday in Advent is sometimes called Gaudete Sunday - “Rejoice” Sunday. The First Reading and Canticle proclaim the theme - and the first words of this reading set a seal on it: Be happy at all times!
This is a tall order! Very few of us could claim to be happy all the time - and we tend to view with suspicion those who never have a bad day and who claim constantly to be happy.
St Paul was aware of this - and was not setting out to create a community of Christians who were constantly smiling and trouble-free. Experience had already shown that being a Christian brought with it many problems and persecutions.
Rather, he is encouraging them - and us - to develop a state of heart that looks for good and rejoices in it. If we live with a sense of gratitude - recognising all the things around us as gifts from God - we can find that we live more positively. We still face problems - but we maintain the right to see things in perspective and not be ground down by our problems.
By choosing to surround ourselves with the best things in life (as the saying says - usually free) - and avoid the things which damage or diminish us - we create a shield around us which protects our integrity. By allowing the Spirit within us to inspire and refresh us, we find a deeper joy and peace within which the worked cannot understand - nor take away.
The underlying prayer that St Paul makes is that those who have received spiritual gifts do not lose them - but cherish them and allow them to grow.
We, like the early Christians in Thessalonika, have the capacity to hold fast to what is good and to develop a heart-set of happiness and rejoicing. In this way, we live without fear because we know that God has blessed us and has not failed to fulfil His promises. We also sense that this is only a shadow of what is to come - when Jesus comes and inaugurates the eternal Jubilee.
What does it mean for me?
Do you find it easy or hard to be happy at all times?
Make a list of your blessings - and add to it between now and Christmas. Give thanks for each one...
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