December 17th – III Sunday of Advent

My Dear Friends:

“Rejoice always.” These are the first two words we hear in the second reading in today’s Mass from 1 Thessalonians 5:16. This is indeed a Sunday for rejoicing! Christmas is a week away. We light the third candle on the Advent wreath, and we hear not only those two words from St. Paul, but the entrance antiphon of the Mass tells us every year on this Gaudete Sunday what he tells the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed the Lord is near (Phil 4:4).”

So there is a persistence in the liturgy to focus on joy as we rapidly approach the birth of our Lord. Why is joy so important for the Christian? Well frankly, we would be terrible Christians if we did not carry the joy of Christ in our hearts. The angels during the first Christmas proclaimed to the shepherds “good news of great joy (cf. Luke 2:10).” Joy is what this blessed season all about, and joy is what should be at the center of every Christian heart. St. John Paul II specifically told us that “God made us for joy!”

Speaking of the saints, they are constantly extoling the virtue of joy. I offer you four quotes on joy from the saints for your mediation during this week:

“We who are Christians have a further cause for joy: like Jesus, we know that we are loved by God our Father. This love transforms our lives and fills us with joy. It makes us see that Jesus did not come to lay burdens upon us. He came to teach us what it means to be fully happy and fully human. Therefore, we discover joy when we discover truth–the truth about God our Father, the truth about Jesus our Savior, the truth about the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts.

– St. Pope John Paul II

“Joy is prayer–Joy is strength–Joy is love–Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls…. A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love. Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of the Christ risen.”

– St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa)

“Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.”

– St. Teresa of Avila

“The soul of the one who serves God always swims in joy, always keeps holiday, and is always in the mood for singing.”

– St. John of the Cross

I love this last quote from St. John of the Cross. These upcoming holy days are indeed days marked by singing carols and hymns. We are uplifted by the music that comes from the heart of our parish liturgical musicians and from our children who sing at our Masses. Let us swim in joy this last week of Advent and be immersed in joy when Christmas comes calling. For as St. Teresa of Avila reminds us in one of the quotes above: “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.”

A friendly reminder: When Christmas Day falls on a Monday, as it does this year, there is always some confusion as to Mass times and when to fulfill the Sunday obligation AND the Christmas obligation. As we seek to swim in Christmas joy and enjoy the fulness of the 4th Sunday of Advent AND of Christmas, here is the simple maxim for next weekend: we have to go to Mass twice over the weekend. As I jokingly announced in one of the Masses last week: there are no “two for one” Masses. To fulfill the Sunday obligation, come to Mass Saturday evening or Sunday morning, and then to fulfill the Christmas obligation, come to Mass starting at 4pm on Sunday evening (Christmas Eve) or Midnight Mass or on Monday (Christmas Day) at any time. Our bulletin editor made it very simple on page 7. We put all the 4th Sunday of Advent Masses in one column and the Christmas Masses on a second column. Go to one Mass from each column, and you will be swimming abundantly in Advent and Christmas joy!

God bless you all,

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