On this Sunday three years ago, Pope Francis said:
The Third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday; that is, the Sunday of Joy. In the Mass the invitation rings out several times to rejoice. Why? Because the Lord is near. Christmas is near. The Christian message is called the ‘Gospel’ which means ‘good news’, an announcement of joy for all people; the Church is not a haven for sad people, the Church is a joyful home! And those who are sad ﬁnd joy in her, they ﬁnd in her true joy!
However, the joy of the Gospel is not just any joy. It consists in knowing one is welcomed and loved by God. As the prophet Isaiah reminds us in today’s first reading at Mass, God is he who comes to save us and who seeks to help, especially those who are fearful of heart. His coming among us strengthens us, makes us steadfast, gives us courage, makes the desert and the waste land rejoice and blossom; that is, when our lives becomes arid. And when do our lives become arid? When they lack the water of God’s Word and his Spirit of love. However great our limitations and dismay, we are not allowed to be sluggish and vacillating when faced with difﬁculty and our own weakness. On the contrary, we are invited to strengthen the weak hands, to make ﬁrm the feeble knees, to be strong and to fear not, because our God always shows us the greatness of his mercy. He gives us the strength to go forward. He is always with us in order to help us to go forward. He is a God who loves us so very much, he loves us and that is why he is with us, to help us, to strengthen us, help us go forward. Courage! Always forward! Thanks to his help, we can always begin again.
Someone might say to me: “No, Father, I did so many inexcusable things… I am a great sinner… I cannot begin from scratch!” You are wrong! You can begin from scratch! Why? Because he is waiting for you, he is close to you, he loves you, he is merciful, he forgives you, he gives you the strength to begin again from scratch! Everybody! And so we are able to open our eyes again, to overcome sadness and mourning to strike up a new song. And this true joy remains even amid trial, even amid suffering, for it is not a superﬁcial joy; because it permeates the depths of those who entrust themselves to the Lord and conﬁde in him.
Christian joy, like hope, is founded on God’s ﬁdelity, on the certainty that he always keeps his promises. The prophet Isaiah exhorts those who have lost their way and have lost heart to entrust themselves to the faithfulness of the Lord, for his salvation will not delay in bursting into their lives.
Gaudete, Fr John