Welcome to the third week of Advent when we light the third candle on the Advent wreath. As you may see it’s the pink one in colour reflecting joy. It’s often called the shepherds’ candle relating it to the joy that the shepherds experienced when the Angel announced to them that the King had been born. Joy is something deep within, not merely emotional and not contingent or conditional. True joy remains alive and withstands all life’s challenges. Joy doesn’t repudiate the existence of sorrow and in actual fact the two could be seen as the two sides of a coin since they co-exist. They are apparent elements in life. That’s why we can be grieved and sorrowful, at the loss of a loved one, but at the same time be grateful and celebrate their life. Such joy goes along with faith and trust in God who is ever present in all situations of our life.
Being the third week of Advent, it is more or less the end of the season and one may want to look back and see how he/she has journeyed from the beginning as well as looking ahead to the remaining time to Christmas. At this time, we kind of change the tempo from expectations to the real presence of Jesus in our midst. Knowing that our mother church gives us this season as one of preparing and waiting in faith and hope for the nativity, we joyfully take advantage of it and be ready just like our Mother Mary to give Jesus Christ to the world, which is both blessed and broken. Our life and actions should be a manifestation of Jesus’ presence hence drawing many to God’s kingdom in the here and now.
The theme of this week is “An Invitation to Rejoice” and indeed one may ask why. When you look at the readings for this Sunday you will find that almost all of them call us to rejoice. The prophecy of Isaiah that we find in the first reading (Is 61:1ff) is not mere words and promises that are simply written. We find this prophecy being fulfilled in the Gospel of St Luke 4: 16 – 21. When Jesus went to the synagogue, he was given a scroll to read and it was the same text of Isaiah that we are talking about today that he read. When he had finished, while everyone was intently looking at him, he told them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”. Ah, what a joy!
The good news talked about here is Jesus Christ himself and He is our Joy and our reason to rejoice. It is Him that we, believers are supposed to bring to our brothers and sisters; the sick, the imprisoned, the marginalized, the poor, the voiceless, the hopeless, and all those who suffer in different kinds for we trust that with him there’s healing, liberty, peace, harmony, love and consolation. And because of that, we cannot but rejoice and exult in Him, the Lord.
In the second reading (1Th 5:16-24), St Paul stresses the same melody when he invites us to rejoice always and to give thanks all the time even in trying moments in our life. He reminds us of the need for consistency in prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit for true discernment of the spirits. Paragraph 21 of our constitutions points out the
same reality about the Spirit who dwells within us. He gradually transforms us and enables us to let out whatever deters his action within us. He unites and conforms us to Jesus and makes us sensitive to His presence within ourselves, in others, and in all that happens around us. However, for the Holy Spirit’s action to be effective in us, our cooperation is vital. This somehow goes with the saying, “God who created you without you will not save you without you”. We need to have quality time in prayer and place the Lord in the center of our lives. In all our services, our activities, and apostolates, we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit for it’s Him who serves and works through us. It’s God’s work entrusted to us and we rejoice and are glad to be his physical instruments here on earth.
Looking quickly through the gospel,(Jn 1:6ff), John the Baptist re-affirms that Jesus is already among us. “…..among you stands One you do not know. He is the one who comes after me the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie”. Jn. 1:26 – 27. Jesus is already in our midst, our source of Joy. This justifies once again our cause to rejoice. However, as John says, Jesus is here but there are still many who do not know him, who do not recognize his presence, who do not believe in him. Why? Simply because everyone is busy doing their things. Too occupied and fully engrossed in work, growing monies, and accumulating wealth, and have no time to stop and see or reflect about what goes on around him, his neighbors or even Mother Earth. What then am I/are we invited to do? Each one has a responsibility and more so for us as religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, our mission calls us to discover and reveal God’s Love who is Jesus Himself. As we rejoice, exult, and give thanks to the Lord, we are invited to let others rejoice with us too. May our way of life and our actions wherever we are be a testimony of God’s presence and love for the people we reach out to especially the poor and marginalized.
You are blessed. Rejoice, rejoice and again I say rejoice.
Nalubega Resty rscj