Gaudete Sunday

“The Lord of hosts is with us: the God of Jacob is our stronghold.” (Ps 46:4)

Happy Gaudete Sunday! This third Sunday of Advent the Church invites us to rejoice with her as we continue to approach the celebration of God coming among us. The celebration of the Liturgy is a bit more festive, and children everywhere rejoice as we finally get to light the pink candle on the Advent wreath!

As I was reflecting on the beautiful Scriptures for today, I was struck by a simple theme: God is with us. I know that by this time in Advent the phrase has become so familiar that we (or at least I) have a temptation to gloss over it. But I think that would be a mistake. Because as I reflected further, I was also struck by what the Scriptures do not tell us in union with that line: nowhere connected with this promise of the Lord being with us is the promise that all our troubles will be erased, or that difficult situations will be eradicated, or that what we found difficult yesterday will be made easy today. We are simply told, “He is with us.”

Twice in today’s first reading for Mass we are reminded to sing joyfully and fear not, because “the Lord is in your midst.”

He tells us that He has removed the judgment against us…He has taken it upon Himself.

He tells us to not fear misfortune and not to be discouraged. Why? Because He is with us. The misfortunes will still persist, this side of heaven, and yet we are still called to rejoice. Because He is with us.

I know that sometimes I fall victim to thinking that once I really entrust everything to the Lord, and trust Him with all my heart, the external situations, especially the difficult, ones, will change. But Christ never promises that to us – yet He does promise to be with us, and that makes all the difference. Oftentimes it is these very situations – the ones I wish were different or that the Lord would take away – that the Lord uses to keep me close to Him, aware of the earth-shattering reality that He is Emmanuel…God-with-us.

This truth of Him being with us brought me to another place in Scripture where we hear this uttered: a town of Galilee called Nazareth, where we meet a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The angel says to Mary, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” In this encounter, Mary is also reminded of the singular presence of God with her, and invited to make a gift of herself to Him in a way that no other human has or will. She is invited to rejoice in the Lord’s presence with her, and to invite Him in to dwell even more intimately within her very womb. As she makes this act of trust and abandonment, she does not know all the answers, or how everything will turn out. She is not promised that all her troubles will go away, that everyone will understand her, and that life will be easy. But she is told to rejoice at the Lord’s presence with her, and as she makes this gift of self to her Lord, He comes to dwell with her…and because of this, He now dwells with each and every one of us.

As we reflect on Christ’s presence with us, we have two options as to how we respond. We can respond in a similar manner to Peter’s initial reaction at the overwhelming presence of Christ’s mercy, and in pride want Him to leave us to do it ourselves: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” I know that many times this is my response: in my prideful presumption of self-sufficiency, I want to solve my problems myself, and run away from the uncomfortable and humbling experience of having to accept help from the Lord, or from other people. However, as I know from repeated experience, this does not end well. But the Lord is relentless in His love, and promises that He will not go away; He pursues us more passionately than we can ever pursue Him.

As we embark upon this second half of Advent, may our response to Emmanuel, God-with-us, be that of the free, total, faithful, and fruitful response of our Lady, who knew that all she had was gift: “He has looked with favor upon his handmaid’s lowliness…The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His name.” She knew and rejoiced in her littleness!

Come, Lord Jesus, and be with us in our littleness, in our brokenness, and in those situations that are difficult and less than ideal. Into those very places, come with your strong and healing presence, and may we have the courage to rejoice that you are with us there. May we rest in the truth of your promise that you rejoice over us with gladness, renew us in your love, and sing joyfully over us as a Bridegroom rejoices in His bride.

-Sr. Anna Rose Ciarrone

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