Sunday, December 13, 2020 – Third Sunday of Advent
Dear Nicholas, Josiah, and Elizabeth,
I’ve been thinking a lot about joy lately. For a while now, I’ve noticed that my reaction to something amazing or overwhelming is just to laugh. I’m not sure why–maybe a lack of words as I process my thoughts, maybe a chuckle as I think, “Of COURSE that’s happening right now…” But whatever the reason, there it is—laughter pops out of my mouth before I can stop it.
The most notable was the day we found out about you, twins. I’m sure you know the story by now, but it’s just so clear in my mind. Man, I was laughing, your dad was laughing, even the doctor and your Kuya were laughing. Why? Because what other reaction could we have had to God’s biggest surprise for us yet?
We laughed as we shared the news with our parents, as we pondered how we were going to fit 3 cribs into one room, as we shopped for a minivan, as we stared at literal towers of diaper boxes. God had surprised us for sure, and we were met with joy.
The responsorial psalm today comes from Mary, her Magnificat. She’s been delivered some pretty incredible news, a definite curveball from God. And, her reaction? Joy. I guess in my mind, she’s laughing to herself too. But, the words speak for themselves:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name. (Luke 1:47-49)
She rejoices even though her world has just turned upside down. She thinks about the turmoil in her immediate future, but praises God’s name and shares how good he is.
As Catholics, we find our joy in times of happiness or in struggle. We find it by tapping into this Spirit within our hearts: the Holy Spirit. We rejoice in God’s goodness, even when life looks overwhelming. We do this by looking backwards at all the ways God has loved us, provided for us, came through at the last minute for us. And, Mary does the same: she recounts time and time again of when God has helped those in need and fulfilled his promises.
The first reading talks about this same Spirit, but this time from the prophet Isaiah.
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.
I rejoice heartily in the LORD,
in my God is the joy of my soul. (Isaiah 61:1-2, 10)
This Spirit is the Holy Spirit, the same one you received at your baptism. It’s the same one that we remember as we light candles and see the power and simplicity of the flame. The same Spirit that the prophet Isaiah spoke of, that St. John the Baptist preached about, that Jesus promised his disciples, that ran through Mary’s very being—that same Spirit lives in you too.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon YOU. He has anointed you. He has sent you to bring joy to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to fight for freedom for those who are chained by sorrow, sin, or the systems in place in our world. You were sent to announce that God will show us his favor, his goodness, his glory.
It’s easy–especially as you get older—to let life or your troubles or finances or whatever to take the place of that Spirit. It’s easy for your joy to fade in response to the sorrows and inequality in today’s world. That’s why these readings at Advent are so important to hear each year—to remind us of the Holy Spirit, of our joy, of our purpose.
Rejoice–have joy! Joy is the medicine this world needs. You hear me say that you’re good medicine for our families? Children are. They heal the wounds and the worries of our older hearts. But it’s not because of some magical powers–it’s your joy! You look at the world differently, know the power of a moment, share openly with others, and somehow see the goodness inside of others. Your joy comes from the Holy Spirit–the spirit of God inside of you.
Joy heals. Don’t let it be squandered away while you do “grown-up” things. Don’t let the world and its fast-paced chaos take your joy away. Find those moments of Christmas lights and remote-controlled cars and a really good book and an epic game of hide and seek. Find joy in the stories of our family. Take heart in the ways that God has provided for you and others.
Then, go use that. Don’t let the Spirit of God lay dormant–Let your joy live strongly in you! Let it guide you to help and serve, to welcome people into your world of laughter and goofiness, dragon sounds and minions.
While we sing songs of joy and light candles on this third Sunday of Advent, “Gaudete Sunday,” let this be a reminder every year to hold onto our joy. Lord knows the world needs every ounce we can share!
I love you!