13 December 2020
Is 61:1-2a, 10-11 | Lk 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54 | 1 Thes 5:16-24 | Jn 1:6-8, 19-28
On this Third Sunday of Advent, as Christmas Day draws closer, the Church around the world focuses on joy.
Joy is a hallmark of the Christian life. Saint Paul calls it one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. That is, those who live spiritual lives grounded in Christ will exude joy. Christian joy is more than mere happiness, contentment, or even optimism. Rather, it is a deep, abiding sense that we are loved by God - loved more than we could ever hope for or imagine. That confidence that we are loved then makes our hearts overflow with a boundless enthusiasm that radiates from us.
Today’s readings speak about the joy we are called to and how we can experience it in our own lives.
One beautiful example is today’s Responsorial Psalm. Actually, it is not taken from the Book of Psalms this weekend, but from the Gospel of Luke. It is Mary’s song of joy (her Magnificat) when she goes out to visit her cousin, Elizabeth. Mary has just received the news that she is pregnant with the Messiah, and she cannot stop singing the praises of God who “looked with favor on her,” who “did great things for her,” and who “fills the hungry with good things.”
Mary teaches us that joy comes from remembering and proclaiming the great things God has done for us.
In our lives as followers of Christ, it is vital that we call to mind continually all the great things God has done for us. It might be as simple as thanking God for our health or for the beauty of a sunny day. It might be as profound as a prayer that was answered or for the gift of our faith. The truth is that God is constantly at work in our lives in big and small ways. He is not a God who stands on the sidelines but one who is intimately involved in our world. We just have to open our eyes to see it. The more we make it a point of recognizing God’s handiwork in our lives, the more of it we will notice and the more joy we will have as a result. So, if we want more joy in our lives, then we must follow the example of Mary and sing the praises of the God who “does great things for us.”
The world tells us that fulfillment comes from indulging ourselves, from asserting ourselves, and from building up our self-esteem. But that is not what the Scriptures ever tell us. We never hear, “Make sure you make it about you!” And yet, so often, we live with a sense of entitlement. True joy comes from forgetting ourselves and looking toward God. It comes from denying ourselves to serve others. Ultimately, it comes from giving God the first place in our lives.
As Christians, we are called to radiate joy. It is a joy that comes from praising God for all the great things He has done for us. It is a decision we make every day to believe that He loves us no matter what challenges we may be facing. And it is the result of living for Him rather than for ourselves.
At this Mass, the source of our joy, Jesus Christ, gives himself to us in both Word and Sacrament.
Let us ask him to increase the joy in our hearts, so that we can bring that joy into this dark, cold world that longs for and remains in need of hope and good news.