(3rd Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 61:1-11; 2 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-28)
We all know people who are not cheerful. Some are simply of a somber disposition; others are afraid of what lies ahead, or they may be mourning a loss, recent or old. In these and similar cases, it is hard to hear St. Paul’s exhortation: “Rejoice always.”
The Weeping Mother of La Salette bewails her people’s suffering and danger, and even complains of being obliged to pray for us without ceasing. Her Apparition could be considered an unhappy event, except for one thing: “I am here to tell you great news.” Those words are similar to Isaiah’s: “The Lord has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor.”
Mary appeared in the hollow of a ravine, but after speaking to the children she climbed to a higher spot and then rose beyond their reach before vanishing from their sight. It was a movement from grief to glory.
La Salette is a place of joy. This is true not only of the Mountain where the Beautiful Lady stood, but of every La Salette shrine. Many come in sadness, yes; but most leave with a spirit that, like Mary’s, “rejoices in God my savior,” echoing Isaiah: “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul.”
This is often a deep interior joy, a quiet peace, which is not the same as joviality. It might not dispel fears or stop tears or change one’s personality. It cannot always be described, it cannot be denied either.
John the Baptist is introduced in today’s Gospel with these words: “A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.”
Here is a challenge for you. Change the text to “A person named [your name] was sent by God, to testify to the light.” Is this a joyful thought?
We have reason to believe that the Baptist was happy in his ministry, because in John 3:29, when he learned that everyone was now going to Jesus, he responded: “This joy of mine is made complete.”
The verse just before today’s Gospel text reads: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This should be true of our joy, too. May nothing ever overcome it.
Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.