Pearl’s daughter. Mary Lou’s husband. Michael’s wife. How many times, and in how many ways, do we define ourselves by who we are? And, like John the Baptist, in today’s gospel, are there times and ways we define ourselves by who we are not? John made it clear that he was not the Christ, not Elijah, and not the Prophet. What he was is what we are called to be — ones who testify to the light, ones who prepare the way of the Lord and ones who proclaim His message of truth to all. How do we, as ordinary people, do this? Through our words and actions we can be examples of the way of life Christ proposed. Mother Teresa once said, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” This blends well into this 3rd Sunday of Advent. This 3rd Sunday is known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means “rejoice”. This is the Sunday of Joy.
Joy can come upon us unexpectedly. It jumps out at us behind sunsets, peeks out in the smile of a stranger and takes hold in a child’s laughter. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit biologist and philosopher, once wrote, “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” Advent is a time when we hope for little moments of joy and invite God to use us as instruments of joy to the world. We could take time today to recall things that have brought us joy and one thing we could do is to share joy with someone in the coming week.
Also, in today’s gospel , it states that John was “sent from God” not as the light, but “he came to testify to the light”. This reminds us that Jesus brings light to the world. And where there is light, there is joy and peace and assurance. Think of situations when things are dark — in the middle of the night when we wake up and cannot get back to sleep due to anxiety/worries. Or it could be felt darkness, such as times when we are frightened and feel alone and hopeless. Then remember how it feels to have light, either physically experiencing light that breaks apart the darkness, or feeling comforted and joyful because our feelings of darkness have ended. We may not have every problem figured out, but we serve a God who loved this world enough to join us in it. During Advent we can pray that we may remember again God’s gift of Jesus to the world and know the joy that gift brings to all people. Help us live in such a way that our words and actions help others know of the joy God gives.