Pastor’s Column

Gaudete Sunday 2013

My brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus,

Beginning of the Advent season, I have presented to you the question: What is Advent all about? Last week I have touched on some points regarding  Signs and Symbols of the season.  This week I wish to continue: Advent is about Attitudes.

Vigilance: there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock.” Luke 2:8

The shepherds in the Christmas story are a model of holy vigilance.  They keep watch for threats to their flocks, but they are also alert to the possibility of good news, angels heralding the birth of the Lamb of God.  Nothing has made people understand the virtue of vigilance like the rise of global terrorism.  I was on the way to the airport recently and read a sign saying, “Suspicious activities call 911!”  It is our duty to stay alert and watch.  This kind of duty applies to the faithful who possess the Advent spirit of vigilance for the presence of God.  Whenever we see it, we proclaim it to the world.

Patience: See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.” James 5:7

Advent reminds us that good things come to those who wait.  In our “instant access,” “instant coffee,” “fast-food,” “instant gratification” society, that wisdom is not always an easy sell.  The Advent scriptures use the related images of farming and pregnancy to celebrate a truth that nature embraces, but culture sometimes resists.  Whether it is sowing the seed of God’s creation working its miracles in its own good time.  The blessings of Incarnation cannot be rushed, but must be patiently nurtured to fruition.

Longing: “My soul longs, indeed it yearns for the courts of the Lord.” Psalm 84:2

During the holidays we may feel a melancholy that springs from an awareness that our lives and our world are not all we wish them to be.  The violet colors of Advent reflect this emotional contrast between childlike faith and harsh reality, between light and darkness.  Children long for Christmas morning to open gifts, but Advent heralds the Christ who is born in darkness, in the midnight hour of our yearning for more permanent gifts, the presents or presence of God. This is why the tradition of Midnight Mass was centerpiece of Christmas liturgy until today.

Joy: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” Philippian 4:4

This Sunday traditionally known at Gaudete Sunday.  The Latin word means Rejoice.  We light the rose candle on our Advent wreath to highlight the joyful mood that is elicited by our growing awareness that the Lord is near.  There may be good reasons for our artificial Christmas trees, but there is no excuse for artificial joy.  Like our blessed Virgin Mary, we do not rejoice in  ourselves or in our possessions, but our spirit rejoices in God, our Savior; the Son of God who alone can bring true joy and happiness to the world.

Hospitality: “She laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7

Interior design has become very popular in recent years.  In the hope of creating more space in their dwellings, homeowners knock down walls or tear out counters to create the popular “open concept.”  Advent is also a time for interior design.  Our hearts and our lives are often cluttered with material things, leaving “no room in the inn.”  We put up walls of division, partitions of status, or closed doors of judgments that shut out God and others.  I am offering many times and extra times in our parishes to welcome you to be part of the sacrament of grace so that we can open up Advent spaces for God to enter and dwell among us.  The Gold envelope you have picked up or has been sent to you, will help you find your time to partake in the sacrament of reconciliation.

At last the Lord will come and he will be our Prince of Peace that we are longing for him.  He is Emmanuel.

Next week I wish to talk: Advent is about God’s People.

Rev. Joseph-Quoc Vuong