Mission of Joy
(3rd Sunday of Advent: Zephaniah 3:14-18; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:10-18)
Today is Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday, so we are not surprised to hear Zephaniah telling Jerusalem, and Paul the Philippians, to rejoice. Both are beyond enthusiastic!
But someone else is rejoicing, too. Look at the end of the first reading. “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.” Is there any image of God more likely than this to bring joy into our hearts?
Zephaniah gives the reason: “The Lord has removed the judgment against you… The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.”
God’s judgment was certainly just; his people were rightly punished. But mercy triumphed, and once again God was willing to make a fresh start. The tears of the Beautiful Lady of La Salette, falling on the crucifix over her heart, are a sign of mercy, Mary’s way of telling us that the Lord, whose judgment is just, has no desire to abandon us entirely. She is letting her people know that God wants to be close to us, to renew his love for us and restore his covenant with us.
The Lord Emmanuel is near. Therefore, we ought to rejoice always, and the expression of this joy should flow out of us into the world around us. That, however, is easier said than done. During Advent, in particular, some experience more stress than at other times, due either to the many preparations for Christmas, or to the painful loneliness that, strangely, the season can intensify.
In this context, let us remember John the Baptist. The Gospels do not depict him as especially joyful, but today’s Gospel Acclamation seems to apply to him the text from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.” His glad tidings take the form of a call to genuine conversion, but in view of the promise of another who is to come.
Whether our La Salette mission is more like John’s or like Zephaniah’s and Paul’s, let us carry it out with all the joy we can.
Fr. René Butler, M.S. and Wayne Vanasse