We bring joy to the world by living out God’s plan for us
During the third week of Advent, we are reminded of the importance of joy, which can sometimes be forgotten in the midst of suffering in the world. Today is Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday. Many priests wear rose vestments today, and the third candle on the advent wreath is also rose. The change in color in a season normally filled with violet is a visual reminder to literally lighten up and rejoice as we continue to prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas.
By prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. (Phil 4:6)
How can you foster joy in the world?
How can you enrich your prayer life?
What can you do to live rightly and promote a just society?
The readings today reflect on God’s presence on earth. The first and second readings proclaim joy in God’s closeness, and the Gospel reminds us to be like God in our actions. In the first reading from Zephaniah, the prophet addresses people in Jerusalem who were suffering, exclaiming to them to shout for joy because “the Lord is in your midst.” Although the beginning of Zephaniah 3 describes judgment and punishment, by the end of the chapter, the perspective shifts to emphasize God’s love and concern, actions that are worthy of celebration.
The second reading from the Letter to the Philippians builds on this idea, reminding the community to rejoice because God is near. Importantly, Paul reminds the community of the power of prayer. Paul notes that when people suffer and are filled with anxiety, prayer offers a way to connect with God, allowing people to express what is needed and offer thanksgiving for blessings.
In some ways, these reminders to rejoice and be glad could feel out of touch with the realities of today, but the second reading gives us a needed perspective. When there are times that we lack joy, we should remember the power of prayer to help us persevere, seeking comfort and joy in God’s presence and love, even if it is not always felt.
The Gospel pushes us to bring joy into the world by living morally and emulating God. In Luke, John the Baptist preaches on how to live righteously, calling for generosity and integrity. While baptizing people, John tells them to share their blessings with people who have less. Moreover, he addresses various financial and legal corruptions, calling on tax collectors not to collect more than is required. John also tells soldiers, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.” These statements suggest abuse of authority in the land, with people with power misusing their offices at the expense of others in the community.
It is especially notable that John makes these statements while baptizing people, showing the link between ritual and moral actions. It is not enough to be baptized. Rather, ritual action must be coupled with moral behavior. John preaches the good news through word and deed, and he inspires his community to live out their faith in all aspects of their lives. John teaches his community to see their baptism as requiring a change in behavior that treats members of the community with dignity and respect. We, too, should recognize the requirements and implications of our own baptism.
On Gaudete Sunday (and always), we should find joy in God’s presence in our lives, looking for ways to foster joy in the world as we live out our faith. Prayer is a powerful and important way to connect with God and express our needs and our thanks. Likewise, living rightly and abstaining from corrupt practices enriches our lives and the lives of others.
This article also appeared in print, under the headline “Joy in the World,” in the December 2021, issue.