Gaudete Sunday

Dear Friends and Parishioners of Saint Jerome,

Pax Christi semper vobiscum!

As per Advent tradition, the third Sunday of the season is called Gaudete, meaning rejoicing. We have heard it before. There is nothing new at all in our liturgical cycle. Priests wear rose-colored vestments at Mass, the rose candle of the Advent Wreath is lit, worship music is joyful, and the Mass readings exude an atmosphere of hopeful anticipation. There is a strong invitation for everyone to be joyful because the Lord is coming soon. Do we truly feel this joy?

I am not being cynical on the Christmas Season. On the contrary, I am looking forward to celebrating the Christmas Masses as the mystery of the Birth of Jesus is unfolded. However, I cannot ignore certain phenomena in the life of some of our brothers and sisters who are challenged by so many complexities of life events. I recently visited two people in rehab facilities who have been in bed for the last six months. They have lost so much weight due to their sickness. Truly, it was a depressing human condition, as they were unable to walk due to spinal column damage. They used to be so active and full of life, and now life seems taken away from them. How can the coming of Jesus that we strongly emphasize during the Advent season be meaningful for them? How does the excitement of Christmas become a welcome celebration for a family who lost a loved one during the last few months? How can we make the coming of Jesus meaningful to children whose parents recently got divorced? When something is taken away from us, it is often difficult to appreciate other people’s words when they speak of the joy of God’s coming. Yet, this coming of God is undeniable. It is real and tangible. And it is good to know that Jesus is especially close to the sick and suffering.

Presence speaks louder than any word that one may hear amid one’s darkness of confusion, loss, loneliness, and grief. To speak of the joy of the Advent of the Lord is to make ourselves the real presence of God to others by “being-with-them.” The coming of the Lord that we emphasize on the commemoration of the Birth of Jesus is never an assurance of the absence of sorrow, loss, confusion, and loneliness. Rather, it is an affirmation that our human struggles, whatever they may be, are never meaningless because God journeys with us. God being-with-us, is an actual presence of Someone who clandestinely entered the silence of the night during that first Christmas encounter so that the power of darkness would be dispelled by His light. Yet, it continues until today when we re-live the life of Jesus who accompanies us when we visit the sick and the dying, when we reconcile with our enemies, when we forgive the unforgiveable, when we prioritize the needs of others before our own wants, and when we claim firmly that the true expression of love is met when we serve those who are in most need.

So, the joy of Advent will be meaningful for those who are challenged to see the realities that are associated with the Lord’s coming if we choose to be the representation of God’s presence for them. I think it would be a good act of Christian charity to recognize those who are longing for our presence, starting with our own family members and neighbors, by spending time with them and by assuring them of our love. Difficulties in life do not go away very quickly. But we are certain that none of those difficulties remain forever. More so, they are being soothed whenever we are assured of the presence of someone who cares.

Today, as we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we are assured of her caring and loving presence as she brings to us her Son Jesus Christ. See you next weekend.

Sincerely in Christ and Mary,