We must recover a taste for true joy — not the fleeting happiness that comes from buying things, but a joy that reaches to the intimacy of our beings.
This was the exhortation made today, Gaudete Sunday, by Pope Francis, before praying the midday Angelus with those in St. Peter’s Square.
“Today we celebrate the third Sunday of Advent, marked by St. Paul’s invitation: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! […] It is not a superficial or purely emotional joy that the Apostle exhorts us to. It’s also not worldly, or this joy of consumerism. No, no, it’s not that. It’s a joy that is more authentic; we are called to rediscover the taste of this joy, the taste of true joy. It is a joy that reaches the intimacy of our being, as we await Jesus, who has already come to bring salvation to the world, the promised Messiah, born in Bethlehem to the Virgin Mary.”
The Pope drew from today’s liturgy to explain how to “understand and live this joy.”
He noted the parallel in the First Reading and the Gospel, as Isaiah speaks of the desert and the parched land, of the feeble hands and frightened hearts.
This is the “inexorable destination when God is lacking,” the Pope said.
But Isaiah proclaims that salvation arrives, because God comes to save us. This prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus, who responds to the messengers sent by John the Baptist, saying, “The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised.”
These are not mere words, but facts, the Pope said, “that show how the salvation brought by Jesus grips every human being and regenerates him. God has entered into history to liberate us from the slavery of sin; he has placed his dwelling in our midst to share our existence, to heal our scars, to bandage our wounds and give us new life. Joy is the fruit of this intervention of salvation and of the love of God.”
The Holy Father repeated something he has said on other occasions — that there’s “something missing” in a Christian who is not joyful, or “he is not a Christian.”
“The Lord comes, he comes to our lives as the liberator,” Francis said, “he comes to free us from all interior and exterior slaveries. He is the one who indicates to us the path of fidelity, of patience and of perseverance, because, at his arrival, our joy shall be complete.”
“Today we are invited to be joyful at the imminent arrival of our Redeemer; and we are called to share this joy with others, giving consolation and hope to the poor, to the sick, to those who are lonely or unhappy,” he said. “May the Virgin Mary, the ‘handmaid of the Lord,’ help us to hear the voice of God in prayer and to serve him with compassion in our brothers, to arrive to Christmas prepared, preparing our hearts to welcome Jesus.”