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Advent Light: This Good News really is impossible

Jeffrey Bruno for Aleteia

Elizabeth Scalia - published on 12/17/17

A reflection and prayer for December 17, 2017, Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday)

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. (
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Today, we light the pink candle on our Advent wreaths and hear many of our priests and deacons explain that they are wearing “rose, not pink” liturgical garb, all for the observance of Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means “Rejoice” and — as with Laetare Sunday, in Lent — it is meant to be a refreshment for the senses and the soul as we move closer toward the fulfillment of these anticipatory seasons.

And the liturgy reflects that with gladsome readings that fall like a cooling mist after yesterday’s fire. First, the marvelous exultation of Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah:

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.

It’s such an uplifting message, spelling out just how very good the Good News really is, that Paul’s exhortation to us seems sensible, justified, and doable: “Rejoice always! Pray without ceasing! In all circumstances, give thanks!”

Hang on. Let’s be real, a minute. Gladsome the words may be but they’re darned difficult to put into practice.

  • Rejoice always? He’s kidding, right? With all of these headlines? These bills? This troubled marriage? That terrible story of suffering children? Rejoice? Always? He can’t mean it. Surely, it’s just Paul getting caught up in the moment. Writers do that.
  • “Pray without ceasing!” Again, not possible. Can’t pray at work; can’t pray while you’re telling the teenager that she’s not doing whatever it is she thinks she is doing this weekend; can’t pray while you’re scrolling through social media too fast to absorb anything.
  • “In all circumstances, give thanks.” That just sounds insane. Give thanks in the midst of a miscarriage of a most-wanted child? Give thanks when you’ve lost your job? Sure, Paul.

The thing is, though, Paul means it. And he’s telling us that this is God’s will for us, through the Messiah.

If that’s true, then this stuff isn’t impossible.

In fact, it might not even be difficult. It might need just one thing from us: Willingness.

To rejoice always? That’s being willing to keep things positive; to willingly see the best in others and believe in the best outcome. Because Christ has come.

To pray without ceasing? It’s to live with a mindfulness of God’s presence and action in the world, so if we’re reading the troubling headlines, or facing the bills, we’re bringing that awareness into it, and referring it all to God; talking to God about how it feels, and what concerns are being raised; asking for his help. You’re praying. Ceaselessly.

To give thanks in all circumstances? We can do it — we really can — if we truly believe the words of St. Philip Neri: All of God’s purposes are to the good, although we may not always understand this we can trust in it.

If we believe that, we can say: “I thank you God for this misery, in this moment, because I know your will is ultimately being accomplished.”

No, that’s not easy. We have to be willing to pull it out of ourselves, nevertheless.

Why? Because God wants it for us. Because in the Divine Economy, this is how we gain the thing God wills for us , through Christ Jesus: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Willingness involves degrees of surrender, all day, every day, and it enfolds us in that management of the world and everything in it. It puts us in the whirl and wonder of that Divine Economy. Where we find the abundant life.

Come, Lord Jesus! And help me, every day, to become more willing. To think the best, to seek your company, always, to thank you in all circumstances. Recalling Mary’s willingness, and Joseph’s, on this Gaudete Sunday, help me be opened to the habit of Willingness. Amen. 

~

Aleteia is bringing you reflections — Advent Light — for each day of this 2017 liturgical season. Follow the series here.

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AdventAdvent Light 2017
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