My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
So, we are getting closer to Christmas! And this third Sunday, as probably we know, the third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday. And “Gaudete,” of course, is a Latin word that means, “rejoice.”
So this is the Sunday for remembering that Advent is a season for rejoicing and that Christmas is a “joyful mystery!”
In our first reading today, we heard the beautiful promise from the prophet Isaiah.
He tells us that when the God comes to save us, people will cry out with joy and gladness, even the earth itself will rejoice. The deserts will suddenly bloom with flowers. People who cannot speak will suddenly be singing a joyful song!
Our joy comes because God is with us. And this is especially important for us to remember. Christian joy is not the same as what we usually think about as “happiness.”
Happiness can be a feeling, it can come and go. We all know this. You can feel happy in one moment and then not so happy in the next.
That’s mainly because in our society, we define happiness in terms of material possessions or comforts and pleasures. We’re told that we can be happy if we have things, if we have money, if we have a nice car or a good house, or the right kind of things.
But as we all know, that is not true happiness. Real happiness comes from within. Real happiness is an inner confidence — a sense that God is alive and present to us, that he is our friend and our companion on our journey of life.
And this is the mystery of Our Lord’s Nativity, the mystery of Christmas that we are waiting for. Our Christian joy is rooted in Jesus — who comes to be “Emmanuel,” who comes to be “God with us.”
And Jesus came to bring us joy. And my dear brothers and sisters, we are called to live with this same joy — each one of us. Always know it — that God is with us.
So the way we live with joy is by living the way Jesus teaches us how to live. And Jesus teaches us, not only by his words — his beautiful commandment that we should love one another as he loves us — but also by the example of his life.2
Think about it. Jesus spent his entire human life doing good for others — teaching and healing, feeding people and showing mercy.
That is what he says in the Gospel today. As we heard, John the Baptist sends his disciples to Jesus to ask if he is “for real” — if he is really the Messiah. And Jesus says to them:
Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
Of course, Jesus is sending a message to John about the miracles he is performing. These are the signs that he is the Messiah, again, that he is God with us, coming into our world. We heard about these same signs in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah.
The prophet tells us that when God comes, the eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf will be cleared.
These are the signs of God’s presence in our world. He is with us in the beautiful gifts of healing and helping, especially the poor and the vulnerable.
But then, my dear brothers and sisters, we have to remember also that God works these “everyday miracles” through you and me — through all the things that we do to serve other people.
Jesus today is also showing us the “secret” of true human happiness.
Real happiness is not found in getting things or having things — it comes, as we were saying before, from giving. And the most precious gift that we can give, is the gift of ourselves — spending our time, using our talents and what we have, to serve other people. Starting with our families.
That’s the example that we receive from Jesus. Jesus gave all that he had, even his very life, for the love for others. That is the model for us. He was showing us the way to truly live as God wants us to live.
And that’s our own experience. Each one of us — we know — from our own experience, that we never feel better than when we are doing things for someone else. It is a wonderful feeling when we are doing good for others.
And the reason we feel good doing that, is because this is what we are made for. We are made for love — to give love and to receive love. That is why the more we give, the more we have this beautiful sense that we are doing what we are made to do.
Just yesterday here at our Cathedral parish, maybe some of you were here, we had the joy of helping others through our beautiful program of Adopt-a-Family.
It was really a special moment of grace for all of us who one way or another participated in this beautiful program.
We had nearly thousands volunteers who helped to deliver gifts to more than 480 families here in downtown Los Angeles and Skid Row. And these gifts — food, toys, clothes and more — were donated by many generous people.
So, it was a beautiful experience of joy, of so many people giving of themselves in order to serve those in need.
I was telling them that doing that — bringing those gifts to the families, especially the children — would be a great blessing for them. But it is also a great blessing for each one of us, because we are doing exactly what makes use happy. Think about it these days as we prepare for Christmas.
In the second reading of today’s Mass, St. James says:
Make your hearts firm,
because the coming of the Lord is at hand.
So let us make that our prayer this week, my dear brothers and sisters.
Let us make our hearts firm, let us ask for the grace to trust even more in the promises of God.
So let’s ask our Blessed Mother Mary — we are trying to accompany her and St. Joseph to Bethlehem — to help us, to look for ways to serve others and to give to others as Jesus gives and to know that this is how we find real joy — the real joy that God wants for us.