Third Sunday of Advent
Dec 13, 2015
R. (6) Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
R. Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
Reading 2 Phil 4:4-7
Alleluia Is 61:1 (cited in Lk 4:18)
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Lk 3:10-18
12/13 Dec 2015 What Brings us Joy?
Third Sunday of Advent
It must be a special weekend in the liturgical year of the Church. The pink candle is lit on the Advent Wreath and Father Jim and I are wearing pink vestments.
As you may remember, the 3rd weekend in Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is Latin for the word REJOICE which is what we find St. Paul doing in our 2nd reading today in his Letter to the Philippians.
Scholars estimate he wrote this letter about 64AD. At this point, St. Paul is in a Roman prison near the end of his life but continues to spread the Good News by writing letters to the early Christians. His letter to the Philippians is sometimes called the Epistle of Joy because the words JOY and REJOICE are used repeatedly.
That brings up 2 questions for us tonight/this morning:
- What brings US joy?
- What can we learn from St Paul who found so much joy while he was in prison knowing he was going to die soon?
When you think about the things in life that bring us joy, they probably bring a smile to your face. What’s on your list of things that bring you joy?
A laughing baby
- A basket full of puppies
- Getting together with a favorite family member or
- Talking to an old friend
These things can make us light up inside and brighten our day. They can be a form of therapy that lifts our spirits during hard times.
If we want to find more things in life that bring us joy, it’s important to talk about the difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is a temporary emotional feeling but joy is more about long term fulfillment. Joy is a deeper state of contentment given by the Holy Spirit.
Happiness is a reaction to pleasure. We can be happy when eating ice cream or when our favorite team is winning but that pleasure and our happiness can soon melt away. A rich person may be happy, but not necessarily joyful. Having a lot of material possessions will not satisfy the deeper desires of our heart but it can be a temptation if we do not know where to find true joy.
The devil does a great job putting temptations in our path to distract us from finding true joy. He wants us to gorge ourselves on physical and emotional pleasures because he knows they are only temporary. He wants us to get caught in an endless loop where the short term pleasures diminish while our appetites continue to increase.
A great example is earning money. Those first few dollars you earn working as a kid seem like a lot of money and bring temporary happiness when they are spent. As a person grows up and has more responsibilities, the need for money grows but for some people it becomes unhealthy.
How much is enough? A group of people earning over a million dollars per year was recently interviewed. Most of them thought a million dollars was not a lot of money and wished they had more. The happiness they got from having a lot of money was short lived and replaced by an unhealthy appetite for more.
So how do we find more joy in our lives?
How do we increase those things that bring us true joy?
As it turns out, the examples from today’s readings can help us:
St. Paul had a very difficult life but still experienced great joy. Even though he was in prison and knew he was going to die soon he was able to share that joy in his writings and encourage others.
In our 2nd reading today he has some great advice for finding peace in our lives:
- Do not worry
- Be thankful and
- Ask God for help
He must have followed his own advice because he was able to keep his suffering in perspective. He knew this life was temporary and that he would be rewarded in heaven.
In his 2nd letter to Timothy he said: “the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me…”
In the Gospel John the Baptist is asked 3 times by different groups of people: “What should we do?”
He has a specific answer for each group but they all focus on doing the right thing: be generous, be honest and be satisfied with what you have.
Can we have it both ways?
Can we do the right thing and find true joy while doing it?
If St. Paul or John the Baptist were living today, what kind of advice would they give us? How would they tailor their message for this time and place and help us find more joy in our lives?
- Would they tell us to be satisfied with what we have and share with those in need by donating to charities? Our giving tree is a great example along with the Mission church in India, St. Vincent de Paul or the Social Justice Committee?
- Would they tell us to not worry so much about tomorrow and ask God for help in prayer throughout the day?
- Would they tell us to be more thankful for the life God has given us and to share our faith and joy with others at home, at work or in school?
- Would they tell us that our time on earth is short and that we should focus on a slower and quieter lifestyle that allows us to be open to God’s plan for our lives like the conversion of St. Paul?
I believe we CAN find joy in doing the right thing because it can bring joy to others. The amount of joy we can find in this life and the next is not rationed like tickets to a ball game. There is an infinite supply available and we help others find it.
Let us use this Christmas season to find joy in doing the right thing and sharing that joy with others.