December 11, 2016 — Third Sunday of Advent
Today, the Third Sunday of Advent, we celebrate Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means “rejoice.” Although Advent is a season of penitence and preparation, today is always set aside by the Church to relax and rejoice in the Lord. All of our readings today deal with Christian joy. This may seem not in keeping with the overall mood encouraged for Advent, but it is most definitely in keeping with what we need to feel, and it is definitely appropriate for those who embrace stewardship as a way of life.
Stewardship is, of course, based upon an “attitude of gratitude” and today is a day to focus on the joy that results from that gratitude. Father Henri Nouwen was a well known Catholic priest, professor, writer, and theologian. In describing the significance of this particular day, Father Nouwen clarified the difference between joy and happiness. He said, “While happiness is dependent upon external conditions, joy is the experience of knowing that we are unconditionally loved by God and nothing — not sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death — can take that love away. Joy can be present in the midst of sadness.”
This “joy” that is reflected in lives of stewardship was also emphasized by Pope Francis, who said in his homily for Gaudete Sunday in 2014, “Today is a day of joy. Rather than fretting about all we have not done or accomplished to prepare for Christmas during Advent, we need to think of all the good things God, and life, has given us.”