3rd Sunday of Advent (Fr. Simham)
Rejoice in the lord
The third Sunday of Advent is called ‘Gaudate Sunday’ . The word ‘Gaudate’ in Latin means “Rejoice”. Opening ante-phone says “Rejoice in the Lord always……..” And in the first reading today prophet Zephaniah Shout for joy, Daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! ” And in the second reading St. Paul again says Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again; rejoice! …….” This suggest the whole mood our celebration today. “Rejoice.” In the first week, the call was “stay awake” or “wake up” and in the second week the call was “Prepare the way” And in the third week the call is “Rejoice”. Wake up, prepare and now rejoice. They have a meaning.
Dear Friends, if you ask me to sum up the whole of Christian religion into one word apart from love, I’ll say it is “Rejoice” or “Joy”. For me religion is nothing but ‘the joy of relating to the father who created you, the joy of relating to the Son who redeemed you, the joy of relating to the Holy Spirit who leads you and the joy of relating to my fellow men and women as brothers and sisters because we are of the same family having god as our father, Jesus as our Saviour and Holy Spirit as our guide. This is what religion is all about. The main underlying thing is the joy of relating either to God or the fellow human beings.
But unfortunately somewhere down the line ‘the joy aspect of the religion’ was missed. Joy of relating to Yahweh was missed. Therefore people went away from God constantly. And God has to after them to redeem. How many of us who gathered here can say with our hand on our heart that religion for us is a joy. Practising Christian religion is a joy for us. How many of us can say that coming for mass is a joy not an obligation or duty. How many of us can say that ‘saying my morning and evening prayers or rosary’ if at all if we say them, is a joy not a burden or duty to be done. So I don’t hurry through them to finish them fast. I don’t find any excuses to skip them. How many of us can say coming regularly for confession is a joy. Its something which you and me have to ask.
Somehow for many of us including me, religion has become a set of ‘dos and don’ts’; a set of obligations to be fulfilled, a set of prayers to be said. Honestly we cannot be blamed for that because that is what we learnt from our parents and that is what we try teach our children. It has been coming down the ages. We hurry through the prayers with our children and they sit with us till a certain age; and after that they say “its meaningless or boring, I can say it. I don’t want to come for mass.” You know why? Because somewhere down the line we missed to teach ‘the joy aspect of religion’. Somewhere down the line we forgot or failed to learn or teach that ‘religion is the joy of relating to God the father who loves you and the joy of relating the fellow men and women as brothers and sisters of the same father.’
So unfortunately our prayer or worship become meaningless and boring. It is not the joy of relating to God the father who loves you and whom you love. When I was in india I use to go to public-parks to relax and I used to see young boys and girls sitting in pairs and talking for hours and hours. I often wondered what they were talking all the time. They may be meeting everyday at that park or ringing up to each other everyday. But still when they meet again they have so many things to share and they sit for hours and talk. They may be sharing the same things they spoke the other day but still they enjoy the conversation. (Some of you may be going back to your own old memories. Good.) I just want to ask “why they are not bored of talking about or repeating the same things again and again?” I had a friend in the Seminary who will listen to all what I say and at the end will say “Tenth time”. But these young lovers are not like that. Because they enjoy each other’s presence. World doesn’t matter much even though they are very important in a conversation or relationship, but their nearness to each other fills them with joy. They enjoy each other’s company or presence. I used to talk to my mother for hours every day but it was not boring. Because you love the person with whom you are talking and therefore you enjoy their presence and conversation. That is what for me should be the essence of religion; especially our prayer or worship where you enjoy the presence of God or a life of loving relationship with the Lord.
This is what prophet Zephaniah and St. Paul meant when they said “Rejoice in the Lord and again I say rejoice “. What it meant was to “Rejoice in the presence of the Lord or find joy in relating to the Lord. Find joy in a life of relationship with the Lord. It means that “It is not where you are but with whom you are that gives you joy.” It also means
Joy is more than pleasant circumstances – Paul was in prison.
Joy is more than rosy future – Paul had no idea what lay ahead.
Joy is more than possessions – Paul was there with nothing.
This is what religion can do or must be for you. This is the call of the Church for this Advent. Wake up if you are asleep in your life, prepare yourself to enjoy the life of relationship with the Lord this Christmas and forever. He comes down to be one with you in relationship of love. Amen
Fr. Showreelu Simham