Reflection & Dialogue: Jesus Christ the cause of our joy
Traditionally this third Sunday of Advent was known as “Gaudete Sunday” from the opening word Gaudete, “Rejoice” in the Latin Entrance Antiphon: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice. Indeed the Lord is near”. In one sense the basis for rejoicing is the nearness of the Lord. Some biblical scholars believe that the “nearness” in question refers to the second coming of Christ – a point by no means clear. In any event, Christian joy is not founded on belief and expectation of the second coming of Christ. Together with peace, it is a gift from Christ. This joy is a gift that no one can take from believers in Christ (John 16:22). Jesus’ desire is that believers may have his joy made complete in themselves (John 17:13). He told his disciples to rejoice and be glad when people revile them and persecute them and slander them for his sake, and Paul and his early Christians so rejoiced.
All this may appear to be too theoretical, with little or no bearing on any dialogue with the world in which we live. This is not quite the case. If joy is a gift from Christ it is active in the entire life of believers, not just in religious affairs. The Church currently is kept aware of the scandals and weaknesses within her, but believers know that with the grace of God she is being purified and these will become a thing of the past. Christian joy comes from belief in God who is ever present. When we look around us we can perceive joy – joy at sport events, at football matches where one’s favourite team is supported, but in case of defeat there is no recrimination for something that is but a game. This is evidence of joy and peace. There is joy in conversation, over a drink, with “craic” and music, and in many of the ordinary events of life. And in times of trouble there can also be joy, in the belief that God is near and will see us through. These are a few of the thoughts worth reflecting on on this “Rejoicing” Sunday – recalling St Paul’s words: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say Rejoice. The Lord is near”,