My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,1
We are getting closer to Christmas!
As I said before, today, we celebrate the Third Sunday in Advent Gaudete Sunday. As we probably know, “Gaudete,” is a Latin word for “rejoice.” And I’m sure that we have noticed in today’s readings, the Scripture readings, are all about joy, rejoicing and light.
We are waiting for Jesus who is the joy of the world, and Jesus who is the light of the world. I’ve been reflecting on Jesus as our joy and light this whole week for the different celebrations that we had. The Immaculate Conception on Monday, Our Lady of Guadalupe on Thursday — Thursday or Friday? — Friday. As for me, it started Thursday evening with the preparation for midnight Mass.
And besides that I had a blessing this week of celebrating Mass in two of our high schools. On Monday for the feast of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. I had the blessing of celebrating Mass at Loyola High School. They have about twelve hundred young men. And then, just yesterday, I had the blessing of celebrating Mass at St. Joseph’s High School and they have about six hundred young women. And Loyola is for boys, and St. Joseph for girls, high schools both of them.
And I was reflecting — Loyola, I think is celebrating its 150 anniversary this year, and St. Joseph’s 50th anniversary this year. And I was reflecting on how in those two high schools, and in every single high school or school in the Archdiocese, we bring the joy and light of Christ to these young men and women. So it is good to see all the good things that are happening in the Archdiocese and in every single one of our parishes and schools.
And that’s what this Sunday reminds us — that when we think of Christmas, when we think of the reason of our lives. We see the joy, the happiness of knowing that God is close to us. And also the fact that what gives meaning to our lives is precisely God’s love and presence among us.
St. Paul tells us today, in the first, in the second reading of today’s Mass, that Jesus is the real cause of our joy:
Rejoice always! Pray without ceasing!
In all circumstances give thanks.
For this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
My brothers and sisters, what a beautiful way to live. Rejoicing always. Praying all the time. Giving thanks for the little blessings in our life — in all circumstances of our lives. Even when things are difficult because we know that God is with us, that he is always there to help us.
And he wants our joy, our happiness. And we find that happiness — when we stay close to Jesus. This is where our happiness comes from. It comes from being with God, being near to Jesus, feeling his love and presence in our lives.
But yes, we know that it’s not always easy to do it. We can do a lot of things that can make us sad. And we can lose the sense of who we are and where we are going.
We have this sadness sometimes of pushing God away. Isn’t it true?
Most of the time because we are so busy — we are taking care of things, and doing things, and we are going here to there. Good things most of the time. Sometimes we do things that are not exactly the best decisions that we can make. That’s our life.
So, what can we do? We need to hear the good news that God loves us.
In the first reading of today’s Mass, a prophet telling us that we rejoice in God. We need God to heal our hearts from pride and selfishness. We need God to set us free from our sins and weaknesses.
That’s why Jesus is coming once again this Christmas. To shine a light in our lives, to shine his light that scatters every darkness. Because he wants to be with us.
That is why in our Gospel reading today, we hear about St. John the Baptist, who came to testify to the light.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.
St. John the Baptist came to tell us that Jesus should be the light of our lives. We need to open our souls, our lives to the light of Christ. That he should be our guide, the One Jesus, the One who lights the path that we travel on. So this is the joy of Christmas. So we are happy because Christmas is coming, not just because we are going to get some presents, maybe — I hope so — but because Christ is coming and he is our joy and he is the light of the world.
What I wanted to share with you, a beautiful prayer, a beautiful reflection that I read this week from Pope Francis.
Just a few days ago, he was lighting the Christmas tree in Italy. It’s an Italian city that is about 130 miles north of Rome, and the Pope was at the Vatican. He didn’t go to the city, he was still at home. But as things happen nowadays, he had a little device like a tablet, that I guess he pushed the screen and then whole thing light is on.
They say that this tree, the people in that city they say that this is the tallest Christmas tree in the world. The realities of Christmas tree the side it lights on a hillside. It’s beautiful.
So the Pope was doing that, and just before that, he made a beautiful reflection that I think it something that we are talking about and can help us, these days, to prepare for Christmas. He said:
“Let there be light in the soul, in the heart.
Let there be forgiveness to others; let there be no hostilities ….
Let there be the beautiful light of Jesus.
This is my wish for all of you …
If you have something dark in your soul, ask the Lord for forgiveness.”
“Christmas”— he wanted to say — “is a great opportunity to cleanse the soul.”
And then he said, “Do not fear. The priest is merciful, forgiving all in the name of God — because God forgives everything.”2
So practically speaking, the Pope is reminding us that God is our loving father. And it’s beautiful advice for all of us during this Christmas — to open our souls, our hearts to the light of Jesus.
And a practical resolution that we all can make is to try to go to Confession before Christmas. It is the Sacrament of Reconciliation, it is the Sacrament that takes away everything that is not good in our lives and allows us to see the light of Christ and have that joy that is so special during this Christmas season.
So as we enter this third week of Advent, let us all try to think about the Pope’s advice and let us all try to reflect on our lives and the life of Jesus Christ.
Especially, let’s try to do more this week, to share to the joy and the light of Christ with others — especially those who are living in the darkness of loneliness, or poverty, or sickness.
That’s what is so special this week for me to remember that throughout the years, people in the Archdiocese have done that — sharing the light and joy of Christ with everybody else. So let’s continue to do that.
And may our Blessed Mother Mary be with each one of you and help all of us to find the joy of Jesus and the light of Christ at Christmas.
1. Readings (Third Sunday of Advent, Year B): Isa. 61:1-2a, 10-11; Luke 1:46-50, 53-54; 1 Thess. 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28.
2. Lighting of the Christmas Tree in Gubbio (December 7, 2014).