The main reason for our rejoicing is, of course, Jesus Christ the Lord. The Father has looked upon the world and each man and woman with great mercy. At one point in time we “could not approach God” (as one of the Eucharist Prayers at Mass says it) because of our sins. The Father, however, sent his only son into the world so that he could become an expiation for our sins so that we may have life in him (see 1 John 4: 9.) As the celebration of Christmas draws near, we cannot but hear the cry “Behold, the bridegroom is coming” (Matthew 25:6) louder and louder. Because the Lord is near, the Church today invites us to rejoice:
“Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!” (Zep 3:14.)
“Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 12: 6.)
Scripture, moreover, links the act of rejoicing to the living out of the virtue of charity. Saint Paul in the second reading, once he has exhorted the Philippians to rejoice, he then goes on to say, “Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near” (Phil 4:5.) In the Gospel for this Sunday, John the Baptist speaks of the way we can best prepare for the coming of the Lord when answers the question posted to him by the crowds, and “what should we do?” (Luke 3:10) He answers:
“’Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.’
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
‘Teacher, what should we do?’
He answered them,
‘Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.’
Soldiers also asked him,
‘And what is it that we should do?’
He told them,
‘Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.’
[And]… the people were filled with expectation…” (Luke 3: 10-15.)
We might recall that those times we have been the happiest we have also found it more natural to be kind. Love and joy are linked together. The kind of rejoicing to which the Church invites us today is not one that leads us to become self-centered. We are not the cause of our own rejoicing but Christ, and the mercy that the Father has shown us in sending his only begotten son into the world for our salvation. If Christ and the salvation he brings is the true cause for our rejoicing, then we will be moved to follow his example and be merciful, “just as your Father in heaven is merciful” (Luke 6: 36.)
December 12th is also the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In the litany we pray at the end of the rosary, we also call our blessed Mother the “cause of our joy.” Mary not only brought forth into the world Christ Jesus who is “surest peace” but her whole being was also filled, from the time of her conception, with the joy of salvation. Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed” (Luke 1: 46-48.)
In her lowliness, the Lord looked with mercy upon the lowliness of every human being, and the joy with which the Lord filled Mary’s being for all eternity is the joy that we are called to experience one day in heaven. For this reason, also, we call Mary our “life, our sweetness and our hope.” When we look at Mary, we become hopeful for Mary’s rejoicing is too our call and destiny if we live and die with the Lord.
May this season of Advent and the eagerness to celebrate the Lord’s coming in the flesh gladden our hearts and make us haste to be kind.