3rd Sunday of Advent | Joy in the Midst of Tribulations
Joy in the Midst of Tribulations
3rd Sunday of Advent (Gaudete)
Today is Gaudete Sunday. The Sunday nearest to Christmas but not yet. Somewhat joy will not be popular this period of the pandemic. It can be confronted with the following attitudes:
There is no reason to be happy at all this time of the pandemic. There are many people suffering; there are many of us who lost their loved ones. There are people who have a limited time to spend with their families and loved ones.
Sure, we can be happy this time of the pandemic. So far as we have the budget to go to malls and buy food, and all the things that can be filled in to the gap caused by the pandemic.
Joy is just a wasteful attitude because some used it to bury their sadness and depression. They just wear masks of joy but they are actually miserable people who cannot be helped because they just simply want to be left alone.
There are many other “alternative” attitudes what could dampen the liturgical proposal of Advent season to be joyful. But why is Advent joy an important attitude to take up and to embrace and assimilate? Here’s why.
Advent joy is not the worldly joy that the Church proposes today. This joy does not flow from the natural source such as sentiments and emotional flux of man. So, this joy is not controlled by our nature or its parameters is set by it. The joy should come from the Lord himself. In Isaiah, this is the joy that can effect inward healing of the brokenhearted, a joy that can create a space for the poor, captives and prisoners to be hopeful for some transformation in their lives. The poor who received grace in the richness of Christ’s promises for treasures in heaven; for captives freedom not given by human liberalism and for prisoners whose freedom means the freeing of his limitations and weakness empowered to goodness and justice. Hence, this joy comes from the faith experience of the person that God who is coming to his heart will one day fulfill and fill in with grace his life which cannot be anchored to the hopes of mere human capacity or can be filled in by material excesses which rather make only the gaping hole in us sore for divine longing.
This Advent joy, now being distinguished from the worldly, is further clarified and redefined by Saint Paul in his first letter to the Christian community in Thessalonika. He started with an imperative: Rejoice always! But this joy is not a pleasureful happiness of the flesh: He did not say be happy by eating more, drinking more and delight in the heat of human lust. We cannot even find a reason to equate our malling, our shopping and our selfies and instagramming as sources of joy. He simply said substantiating his meaning of joy: pray without ceasing! Give thanks for all the graces (material and spiritual). Do not put off the spirit by despising prophecy. But test the spirit if it is of God or not. Refrain from every kind of evil. Let us apply these joy to us in our situation:
Pray without losing heart: St. Paul refers that the start of a joyful life is a life with God. As our joy is not based on the worldly, no esoteric forms of joy can be joyful if that is not from the Spirit of God.
Give thanks for all circumstances: Prayer should be based in an attitude of gratitude because it is simply flowing from joy of the Lord. One cannot be grateful for a particular grace when you are bitter-hearted. Joy expresses itself in man through gratitude.
Do not putt-off the Spirit by despising prophecy: A joyful person listens to the voice of God; to the prophetic Words of God. But this can also sometimes fall victim to ungodly spirit. Not all things appear good comes directly from God. Sometimes, there are those presenting itself as a source of joy to us and when we finally found its true nature, we are being gripped tight by it. This is why we need to test it and reject the spirit when it does not come from God for it is not a true joy of the Lord.
Finally, refrain every kind of evil: there are obvious spirits that come across our path and we know that even the sin is enticing us to commit because we want to enjoy ourselves, we refrain from it — we need to reject sin because it is a trap joy. It offers false face of joy and it will engage our souls to eternal sadness away from God.
This Gaudete Sunday of Advent, let us come and be joyful in the Lord. A real joy is freedom from the worldly basis and is informed by Divine characters. If we take this path, Saint John the Baptist becomes our person of joy, an example of unsullied person who expected and prepared us for the coming of the Messiah. He was not disillusioned by his role — he is there but in God’s grace, he stands on the foothold of his role contented. He is the voice but did not pretend to be the Word of God which his voice is of service — say reflected by Saint Augustine. May we also be like him — in waiting with a joyful heart, he did not fall short to the expectation. So hence, there can be joy in the midst of our tribulations.