Is: 61:1- 2a 1 Thes 5: 16-24, Jn 1:6-8, 19- 28 Gaudete Sunday

We welcome Advent as a quiet, contemplative time of waiting for the Light, the Light who came to be the light of the whole human race. The Light through whom we are given light, rescuing us from the great darkness and hopelessness and the frantic rushing of this time. It is a very special season.

As we enter into Advent this year, we are once again, a people that live in a world restless and at war. As this sinks into our hearts, it is natural to ask, how can we celebrate Christmas?

Archbishop Justin Welby, of Canterbury Cathedral, spoke the following words on December 22, 2022: “Advent a time of preparation, waiting. It’s a time when we prepare to celebrate that world changing moment when Jesus Christ God himself burst into human history and that gave birth to a new era in history. One where we look forward to the completion of a kingdom of truth, justice, peace and light -God’s kingdom reigning on earth when Jesus returns. We all need this message. We need to prepare and we all need it especially at a time when round the world so many are caught up in devastation and war and poverty and struggle”.

And so as we think of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the conflict with Hamas and Israel. This is another Christmas when our world is at war, and life is also uncertain for many here in Ireland. And at a personal level, we all carry our own troubles and worries.

This Sunday is often referred to as Gaudete Sunday. The opening Antiphon of the Sunday’s Mass, says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near. In my God is the joy of my soul”. The responsorial Psalm exhorts “my soul rejoices in my God”.  And Paul tells the Thessalonians “Be happy at all times”! Isaiah cries out “I exult for
joy, my soul rejoices in my God.”

The profound reason for our joy, is because God, in the person of Jesus Christ has come, continues to come and will come again. This is why we celebrate Christmas. Today, as we open to the spirit beckoning to us and listen, as we sit in silent prayer, Jesus Christ, who humbled himself to become one with us, is born in us and seen in us, through the lens of relationships, with God, with one
another and the natural environment.

As our relationship with God deepens, we open our hearts in prayer, to be present to the people of Palestine, Israel and Ukraine. With open hearts we can be in solidarity with migrants, refugees, children separated from their parents. With open hearts we bring compassion, and understanding to our world, flawed as it is, yet beautiful. With open hearts we are in solidarity with the unemployed, bereaved, sick and dying.

Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit, so when the Spirit is at work in us, people will experience us as joyful. There are ways in which we have brought joy to others, and have experienced it ourselves, even in a year as challenging as this one has been. So you might ask yourself what are the ways that joy has been real for you this year? As we embrace the joy of the Spirit alive in us… we pass it on to others. And that is Christmas.

Fionnuala Quinn O.P.