For You Are My Joy

This third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday because the entrance antiphon quotes words from St Paul’s letter to the people of Philippi;

“Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus omnibus: Dominus enim prope est”.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.”

Paul wrote this letter under the circumstance of severe apostolic suffering yet is also one of the most joyous of all his letters. The priest can wear rose or pink vestments at Mass to express this joy.

On this Sunday we pray that God will fill us with joy at the coming of Christ. What do we mean when we speak of joy and living a life of joy? In one of her letters, Sister Wendy Becket wrote: “If only people knew that looking at God and forgetting themselves opens out a world of joy.”

Another nun, Sister Mary Totah, who was a nun of the Benedictine contemplative community of St Cecilia’s Abbey on the Isle of Wright, wrote a book called “The Joy of God” in which she says that, “Joy lies at the very heart of the Christian’s vocation.” She reminded us that we are called to “live in joy and to communicate joy, the joy of communion in the one body of Christ, the joy of believing, the joy in the midst of suffering, joy in spite of suffering. There is no virtue, no circumstance, that is not to be illuminated by joy”. Our feelings of joy are not dependent on fortune, good or bad but are grounded in our belief that God is creator and redeemer of the world.

The first words of Pope Francis’ letter (that he wrote in November 2013) was entitled Evangelium Gaudium. The first sentence of his letter is: “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus”. He reminds us that, in the Gospels, God is constantly inviting us to rejoice. “Rejoice!” is the angel’s greeting to Mary. Mary’s visit to Elizabeth makes John leap for joy in his mother’s womb. In her song of praise, Mary proclaims: “My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour”. When Jesus begins his ministry, John cries out: “For this reason, my joy has been fulfilled”. Jesus himself “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit”. His message brings us joy: “I have said these things to you, so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete”. Our Christian joy drinks of the wellspring of his brimming heart. He promises his disciples: “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy”. He then goes on to say: “But I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you”. The disciples “rejoiced” at the sight of the risen Christ. Why should we not also enter into this great stream of joy?

Lord, help me to understand that joy is not something I feel but something I do. Give me the grace to choose joy. Joy is a choice you are calling me to. In calling me to yourself, you are calling us to joy, for you are my joy. This is why I can always ‘rejoice in the Lord’, even when I may have a thousand reasons for being sad or upset.

Canon Father Anthony Charlton
Canon Father Anthony CharltonParish Priest