GAUDATE! GAUDATE!! GAUDATE!!!: A HOMILY ON THE 3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C
Today is the third Sunday of Advent, known as the gaudate Sunday. The word ‘gaudate’ is an imperative form of the verb ‘rejoice’. It is like someone commanding you to rejoice. But how is it possible to command someone to feel in a certain way? Let us look at it from the point of view of two popular statements. First, we often hear that you cannot give what you do not have. Yet, if you think of it properly, you will also discover that you cannot have unless it is given to you. Therefore, you need to receive from someone in order to give to someone. Secondly, we often hear that you cannot love others unless you love yourself. This can give us the impression that we have a natural capacity to love ourselves, which is not true. If you cannot love someone else unless you love yourself first, it is also true that you cannot love yourself unless you have been loved by another. So, both statements are half-true. The full truth is that you cannot give what you don’t have, and you cannot have what you have not received. The other full truth is that you cannot love someone else unless you love yourself and you cannot love yourself unless you have been loved by someone else. Bearing this in mind we reflect on our readings of today.
THE LOVER OF THE BELOVED
First reading : Zephaniah 3:14-18
Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; O Israel! Rejoice and exalt with all your heart, O daughters of Jerusalem ! The Lord has taken away the judgements against you, he has cast out your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear evil no more. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “ Do not fear, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. The Lord your God is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival.: The prophet Zephaniah was from a royal family and he wrote during the reign of the King Josiah, who was one of the best kings of Israel. But as good as Josiah was, he was eventually murdered at a prime age of 39. He became one of the figures who pointed to the person of Christ, in that he was a young, righteous king, in his 30s, killed for no just reason. Zephaniah was writing at a time when there was great corruption in the temple, and he speaks both of destruction and restoration. Here he tells us to rejoice because the Lord our God is in our midst. But there is something we can easily miss in this passage. It is the image of the loving and intimate relationship between God and us.
He speaks of God who is in our midst, and this reminds us quickly of the God who became flesh and came to dwell among us. This is the incarnation of Jesus Christ. In this incarnation, something special is happening. In Jesus Christ, we see what we call the hypostatic union, which is the union between the humanity and the divinity of Jesus. It is as if God becomes married to us that we and God become one flesh. So we can say that Jesus is a marriage between God and humanity.
Jesus is God, but He is also human, yet He is one person. This marital relationship with God is what we are all called to participate in. It is the relationship between God the LOVER and you the BELOVED. This is what Zephaniah is talking about when he said that the Lord your God will rejoice over you with gladness, that God will renew you in His love, that God will exult over you with loud singing. Who else sings to another if not a lover. In the Jewish culture, when you talk of one person rejoicing over another, it is always done in the context of marriage, romance and intimacy. The same applies when they talk of someone singing to or about another. This relationship makes you the Lover’s Beloved. Once you develop this identity of one extravagantly loved by God, then you will not need anybody to tell you to rejoice. This is the first secret to true happiness and joy.
THE JOY OF THE BELOVED
Second Reading – Phillippians 4:4-7
Brethren : Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice, Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.: St. Paul does not just tell us to rejoice, but he tells us to rejoice in the Lord. Once you have entered into this marital and intimate relationship with God, you know in your bones how much you are loved. This is the best cure for all our anxieties. Emeka Morocco Maduka once sang a song where he said ‘If a woman is married to a very rich man, anytime you ask her the question ‘how are you’, her response will be ‘I love my darling and my darling loves me’. She cannot wait to tell you about the love she is swimming in. Her answer also tells you that nothing bothers her. Of course money is not the solution to all problems. Money cannot fulfill the deepest longing of the human heart, and no other human being can. Only God can. He is the richest ever and if you are married to Him, your answer will always be ‘I am the Lover’s Beloved.’ This is the permanent cure of all anxieties.
Once you start living your life from that point of view, you will always be in prayer. How else do you communicate with your Lover. You will always confess your sins, because if someone loves you, you never want to offend Him. You will forever be thankful for such undeserved love, and you will never stop saying ‘Thank you Jesus’. A happy person is someone who in a day can say ‘thank you’, either to God or to others, at least 50 times. Even when you are making your request known to God, you will be doing so in thanksgiving. A grateful heart is a happy heart. This is the second secret to true happiness and joy.
THE LOVE OF THE BELOVED
Gospel -Luke 3:10-18
At that time : The multitudes asked John, “What then shall we do ?” And he answered them, “ He who has two coats, Let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, Let him do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptised, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” Soldiers also asked him, “ And we, what shall we do ?” And he said to them, “Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” As the people were all in expectation, and all men questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ, John answered them all, “I baptise you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose scandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he preached good news to the people.: Yes, you have been extravagantly loved by God, and now you have received great love. But that is to be shared with others. The love you have recieved is so great you cannot keep it all to yourself. When the people asked John what they must do, he tells them to share what they have. If you have two cloak, give one to someone who does not have one. If you have food, share. There is no need to rob people of what they have and there is no need to be greedy. Many of us are not just stingy, but very greedy and there is a saying that greed kills. Greed is the biggest source of unhappiness. This greed leads us into unnecessary competition with other people, which leads us to the pride that will finish us permanently. John the Baptist demonstrates his humility when he could have claimed to be the Christ, but he did not. He was not only content with what he has, but he was also content with who he is. To be content with what you have. To share the little you have. To be content with who you are. This is the third secret to true happiness and joy.
Yes, you cannot give what you don’t have, but you cannot have what you have not received from God. You cannot love others if you dont love yourself, but you cannot love yourself unless you have been loved by God. It is a triangle of you receiving from God and giving to others. This is what it means to rejoice in the Lord.