Gaudete Sunday

12-13-2020From Fr. John's DeskFr. John Barbella

This weekend the Church honors our Blessed Mother by celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. You may recall that, on this day last year, our Bishop re-consecrated our diocese to the Lord thru our Blessed Mother, Mary, under her title of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This weekend, we will join Bishop Checchio in renewing that consecration by saying a special prayer at all our Masses.

It is important that each of us remember that we are indeed consecrated to our Lord and His holy Mother. To be consecrated means that we belong to Jesus and Mary in a very special; indeed in a sacred way. We should do our best to live our lives according to Jesus’ teachings and Mary’s example, and help others do the same.

Today is the Third Sunday of Advent. In the ‘old’ days, this Sunday was called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete basically means ‘be happy’ or ‘rejoice’. On the surface, we are rejoicing because Christmas is almost here.

If that were all there is to Gaudete Sunday, we might ask why it is celebrated on the Third, rather than the Fourth Sunday of Advent. After all, is not the Fourth Sunday of Advent even closer to Christmas and thus an even more joyful celebration?

The answer is that we celebrate Gaudete Sunday in the midst of–rather than at the end of–Advent to remind us that Jesus, Who came as our Savior long ago, is coming again to bring us to the fullness of His Kingdom. In spite of all the troubles in our world, we wait in joyful hope for the coming of Christ and His Eternal Kingdom of Peace and Justice. The brightly colored rose candle we light today, like the rose colored vestments the priest wears today, are a reflection of this joy.

This message is very appropriate for us this year. This has been a very tough year. The pandemic (and all the issues associated with it) and the social unrest and divisions that reach even into some families have made this a year unlike any other. So many people have told me they cannot wait for it to be over!

But, shining in the midst of the darker purple candles, the bright rose candle reminds us that even in these troubled times we have many reasons for joy. We can speak to our Lord in prayer, privately if not always at Church. We can have His forgiveness for our sins, even if we can’t get to Confession in person this Advent. And many, many good people have done amazing things to serve those who are sick in spite of all the challenges posed by this strange year.

I’m going to suggest that, as a way of celebrating Gaudete Sunday today, each of us take time to think of some of the blessings in our lives. Think of some of the reasons you have to be joyful today–even in this very tough year. Things like family and faith come to mind for me. Then take a moment to thank God for those blessings.

I hope that, by now, those planning to attend Holy Mass on Christmas or Christmas Eve have called the office to reserve a spot. It is essential that we do this to ensure everyone’s safety–another reminder of the kind of year it has been!

For those who cannot attend in person, the Solemn Mass at Midnight will be livestreamed from our Church. It will then be posted on our website (www.spsj.org). This will allow those who cannot stay up to watch at Midnight to watch on Christmas Day or one of the weekdays of the Christmas Octave. I love to celebrate this joyful and beautiful Mass, and hope many of you will join me at it virtually or in person. Celebrating the joy of Christ’s birth at midnight, in the darkness of the night, is a powerful reminder that the Light of Christ shines in the darkness. That, indeed, is the greatest joy of all!

Have a great week – and pray a Hail Mary for me!

Fr. John

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