will listen to prepare the way for the Lord, in their hearts, their lives, their homes and their world. In both his preaching and his life witness he calls for a total reformation.
The point is an important one. Because the Lord is near we must live differently. The way of joy passes along the path of self emptying, the way of humility. The Baptizer reminds us that we must decrease so that we can be filled with Jesus, the source of all joy. The way to joy is through self emptying love.
This lifestyle change should characterize Christians. It is why, before they were called Christians, they were referred to as "the Way" (See, e.g., Acts 22:4). By living our lives "in the Lord" we can find the Joy proclaimed on this Gaudete Sunday. John told the crowds, "I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." (Luke 3) We have received that Baptism, and with it all the grace we need to respond to the invitation.
John's humility is the road on which we are invited to walk. He became a man of Joy because he was a man of humility! He understood the great truth presented to all of us in our Liturgy today. It wasn't all about him! It isn't all about us! John emptied himself - of himself - and thereby became one who could reveal Jesus to others. His humility opened a space within him for true joy, the kind which comes from the real presence of the Lord.
So it can be for each one of us. Living in the first home of the whole human race, his mother's womb, this last Prophet of the Old Testament and First Prophet of the New responded to the arrival of Jesus with a dance and just kept living in joy.
The Gospel account records the visit of Mary to Elizabeth: "When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
"For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." And Mary said: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior." (Luke 1: 41-47)
Joy fills Elizabeth, inspires Mary to sing a canticle of praise and causes the child John to dance in the womb. Joy is a Person - named Jesus. When we encounter Him, we encounter Joy.
In the fourth Gospel, the theologian John records the Baptizer explaining the source of his supernatural joy, "The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease." (John 1:29 - 30)
As we walk through the remaining days of Advent, the two biblical persons held before us in our readings at Mass and in the Liturgy of the Hours will be John the Baptizer and Mary. Mary's humility brought heaven to earth and earth to heaven.
Mary was a woman of deep joy because she became the habitation of happiness, the first living tabernacle. She overflows with Jesus and imparts joy to us all. We call her, among her many other wonderful titles, the "cause of our Joy". That is because she bore the One who is its source, Jesus Christ.
We can find this kind of joy, this genuine happiness, beginning today, no matter what our circumstances. The Apostle Paul lived an arduous life of discipleship. He suffered physically, relationally and spiritually. Yet, he too was a man of this kind of joy and we hear it in his admonitions to the early Church.
On this Gaudete Sunday let us embrace by grace the way of humility and find the happiness of heaven - beginning on earth. St. Josemaria Escriva, a Saint of our own time who teaches us that the universal call to holiness embraces every vocation and state in life, once wrote, "I am every day more convinced that happiness in Heaven is for those who know how to be happy on earth." (The Forge, 1005)
On this Gaudete Sunday, Rejoice!
- - -
Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Gaudete, Rejoice, Rose, Pink, Joy, Christian joy, happiness, Deacon Keith Fournier
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