Today we celebrate “Gaudete” Sunday, meaning “Rejoice” in Latin. As we are now over half way through the season of Advent, a time of waiting and preparation for Jesus’ coming, it is a time of joy filled anticipation and rejoicing, as we hear from both Paul and the prophet Zephaniah. “The Lord is near.” (Phillippians 4.5) “Sing aloud… Rejoice and exult with all your heart.” (Zeph. 3.14)
I also want to mention that earlier this week(Dec 8) Pope Francis inaugurated this Church year as a Jubilee Year, a holy year, marking the 50th year since the close of the second Vatican Council. A Jubilee is a year of celebration and outpouring of God’s graces, and the particular theme for this year is Mercy. Pope Francis is inviting us to reflect on the mercy of God and has released a document highlighting the key concepts and point for reflection for this year; “How much I desire that the year to come be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God! May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!”
While in Whitehorse last week, during our pastoral retreat we had the opportunity to ponder and reflect on this document and so I wanted to share two key points that connect closely with the readings today.
Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy; Jesus embodies the mercy of God the Father. For our salvation we need to contemplate the face of mercy; Jesus Christ. I could simply leave you with that and you would have enough to contemplate for a while.
But, what is mercy? In a nutshell, forgiveness, forbearance (all our sins committed yet unpunished as to our due. God endures with us and is patient with us), and compassion (specifically for the suffering). These translate from God to us, and from ourselves to others.
In the Gospel today(Luke 3.10-18) many people were coming to John to be baptized. They were looking for something more, they were filled with expectation and asking him, “What should we do?” In other words, they were not content with their lives and saw that they needed to make changes.
Have we come to this realization yet? How do you need to change your life in order to prepare for Christ? What do you need to do to be expecting Him?
I think our answer is quite simple, from the wisdom of Pope Francis; Contemplate the face of mercy, the face of Christ. Unlike the people in the Gospel, who were coming to John, we have the knowledge of whom we are to expect! Should we not be that much more open to receiving him and allowing him to change us? Should we not be that much more filled with joy? And should that not show in our lives?
As we rejoice in the expectation of Christ’s coming during this third week of Advent and as we open ourselves to the graces that this Jubilee of Mercy has to offer us, I would encourage you today to contemplate the face of Jesus Christ; whether it be the child in the manger or the man on the cross, in the face of a neighbour, a child, or someone on the street! He is the “good news” that John the Baptist proclaims! He is the Father’s mercy and love to you! Rejoice!
Scripture for Reflection: