The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rejoice always

Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011
3rd Sunday of Advent—B
Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11
1Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28
“Rejoice always.”

“Pray without ceasing.”

“In all circumstances, give thanks.”

“Do not quench the Spirit.”

St. Paul’s brief words in today’s second reading comprise a commentary in and of themselves on the whole of Christian life. This is how we are to live.

Why? Because as Isaiah foretold in the first reading, Jesus Christ has brought glad tidings to the poor, healed the brokenhearted, proclaimed liberty to the captives, and released the prisoners (cf. Luke 4:16-21). This he has done in some way—many ways—for each and every one of us as individuals who fit into God’s overall plan of redemption and eternal life. We are each poor, brokenhearted, captive, or imprisoned by something in our lives, and it is the Light of Christ who frees us.

However, as Fr. Eugene pointed out in his powerful homily today in the Archabbey Church, it is difficult for us to rejoice for any sustained amount of time. It’s much easier to be critical, negative, and sorrowful. It is difficult for us to stay focused on the fact that while things in this world are not—and never will be—perfect, from the Christian perspective they are often good enough. Why? Because we are liberated people living in a world that is not be- and end-all. That is a cause for rejoicing!

So the season of Advent, Fr. Eugene remarked, is a time to remember what we already have in Christ Jesus, while also looking forward in hope to what is to come.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that we go around blissfully ignorant or indifferent, grinning like idiots, singing “Don’t worry, be happy.” After all, St. Paul saw more than his fair share of hardship. He encountered resistance, conflict, and his own sins. He was beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, and eventually martyred. Yet, he tells the Thessalonians (and Philippians) to rejoice always as he did.

Why? Because like a lamp, he carried within himself the Light of Christ to help illuminate our dark world from within. He delivered the good news that in Christ, God has clothed each of us with a robe of salvation. As St. Paul himself says, “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it.”

For this reason and this alone we must rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, and keep the flame of the Spirit stirred within us. When we each do this—testify to the Light--Christ the Living Flame will come in all his glory to gather all to himself, and our thirst will be eternally satisfied.

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