Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today’s readings invite us to rejoice at the rebirth of Jesus in our lives as we are preparing for Christmas celebration. Today is called Gaudete Sunday because today’s Mass begins with the opening antiphon: “Gaudete in Domino semper,” i.e., “Rejoice in the Lord always.” So, to express our joy in the coming of Jesus as our Savior into our hearts and lives, we light the rose candle in the Advent wreath, and the priest may wear rose vestments.
The prophet Isaiah, in the first reading, encourages the exiled Jews in Babylon to rejoice because their God is going to liberate them from slavery and lead them safely to their homeland. In the second reading, James the Apostle encourages the early Christians to rejoice and wait with patience for the imminent Second Coming of Jesus. Finally, in the first part of today’s Gospel reading, Jesus encourages John the Baptist in prison to rejoice by casting away his wrong expectations about the Messiah and simply accepting Jesus’ healing and preaching ministry as the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah. In the second part of today’s Gospel, Matthew presents Jesus, the true Messiah, paying the highest compliments to John the Baptist as his herald and the last of the prophets, and giving special credit to the courage of John’s prophetic convictions, asking his listeners to rejoice in the greatness of his herald. Christmas, Christ and his Good News of love reaches beyond boundaries of race, religion, and culture. The joy Jesus brings is beyond our imaginations.
Under a cultural exchange program a rabbi from Russia was visiting with a Christian family in Texas. Since it was Christmas, the family wanted to take him to some of the finest places in Houston, so they all went to a favorite Chinese restaurant. Throughout the meal the rabbi extolled the wonders of America in comparison to the bleak conditions of his homeland. When they had finished eating the waiter brought the check, a fortune cookie, and a small brass Christmas tree ornament as a present for the rabbi. They all laughed when the rabbi pointed out that the ornaments were stamped “made in India.” But the laughter soon subsided when they saw that the rabbi was quietly crying. They all thought that the rabbi must have been offended by receiving a Christmas tree as a gift. But no, he smiled and shook his head and said, “Nyet, I was shedding tears of joy to be in a wonderful country, in a Chinese restaurant in which a Buddhist gives a Jew a Christmas gift made by a Hindu!”
More than anything today’s gospel teaches us how to survive a Faith crisis. If John the Baptist, even after having had a direct encounter with Jesus, the Messiah, had his doubts about Jesus and his teachings, we, too, can have our crises of Faith. On such occasions, let us remember the truth that all our Christian dogmas are based on our trusting Faith in the Divinity of Jesus who taught them, and on his Divine authority which he gave to his Church to teach what he taught. Hence, it is up to us to learn our Faith in depth and so to remove our doubts.
We rejoice at the thought that Jesus is going to be reborn in our lives, deepening in us His gifts of love, mercy, forgiveness and the spirit of humble and sacrificial service during this Christmas season. Hence, let us joyfully share God’s bountiful grace, forgiveness, and mercy with others. What Jesus commanded John’s disciples, he commands us as well: Go and tell others what you hear and see. This means that we have to share with others our experience of the rebirth of Jesus within us. Today’s readings remind us that our lives can also be transformed if we are patient and place our trust in God. The message of Advent is that God is present among us, in our everyday lives. We need to open our hearts and let God transform our lives.
God Bless You,