Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, During this month of December, the month dedicated to the Immaculate Conception and the Infancy of Jesus, let us pray for the grace our hearts need to be prepared for the gifts of grace our Lord wills to give each of us! This Sunday we celebrate the 3rd Sunday of Advent. I share with you a reflection on The Joy of Advent. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week: ―3rd Sunday of Advent: The Joy of Advent. Advent: a time of happiness and hope. What happiness is - being near Jesus: unhappiness - losing Him: The liturgy of today‘s Holy Mass repeats the words of St. Paul in which he urges the first Christians of Philippi: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. (Phil. 4:4) And the Apostle goes on to give the basic reason for this profound happiness: the Lord is at hand. This is also the joy of Advent, and that of every day: Jesus is very near us. He is nearer every day. And St. Paul gives us the key to understanding the origin of any unhappiness we may feel: it comes from our putting a distance between ourselves and God, through our sins, through our tepidity. Our Lord always brings us joy and not affliction. His mysteries are all joyful mysteries, the sorrowful mysteries we bring on ourselves. (P. A. Reggio, Supernatural Spirit and Good Humour) Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you (Luke 1:28), said the Angel to Mary. It is the nearness of God which makes the Virgin rejoice. And the nearness of the Messiah will make the unborn Baptist show forth his joy in the womb of Elizabeth. (Luke 2:4) And the Angel will say to the shepherds: Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day a Savior… (Luke 2:10-11) Joy is to possess Jesus; unhappiness is to lose Him. The people followed Our Lord and the children gathered around Him (children do not gather round gloomy people), and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by Him. (Luke 13:17) After the dark days that follow His Passion, the risen Jesus will appear to His disciples on various occasions. And the Evangelist will be pointing out over and over again that the Apostles were glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20:20) They will never forget those meetings which filled their souls with such indescribable joy. Rejoice, says St. Paul to us today. And we have good reason for doing so, and one surpassing reason, above all: The Lord is at hand. We can come close to Him whenever we want to. In a few days it will be Christmas, a great feast for us Christians, but also for the whole human race, which, without knowing it, is looking for Christ. Christmas is coming, and God wants us to be joyful, like the shepherds, like the wise men, like Mary and Joseph. We shall be full of joy if Our Lord is really present in our life, if Our Lord is really present in our life, if we have not lost Him, if we have not allowed our sight to be clouded by tepidity or lack of generosity. When one attempts to discover happiness along other paths which lead away from God, all one finds in fact is sorrow and misery. All those who, in one way or another, ever turned their backs on God have had the same experience: they have proved that apart from God there is no true happiness. There can be none. To find Christ, and to remain in His company, is to possess a deep happiness which is new every day. Christian happiness. Its foundation: Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth. Break forth, O mountains into singing, for our Lord is coming! (Is. 49:13) In His days, justice and peace shall flourish. (Ps. 71:7) Happiness should be essential to the Christian. Ours, however, is not just any sort of happiness. It is the happiness of Christ, which brings justice and peace. Only He can give it and preserve it, because the world does not possess its secret. Worldly happiness leads inevitably to its own loss…; it arises precisely when man contrives to escape from himself, when he looks outward, when he manages to turn his gaze away from his meaningless and solitary interior life. The Christian carries his joy within himself, because he meets God in his soul in grace. This is the unfailing spring of his happiness. It is not difficult to imagine Our Lady, in these days of Advent, radiant with joy at carrying the Son of God beneath her heart. The world‘s happiness is a poor and transitory thing. The Christian‘s happiness is profound and can exist in the midst of difficulties. It is compatible with pain, with illness, with failures and contradictions. Our Lord has promised: Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. (John 16:22) Unless we separate ourselves from its source, nothing and nobody can take away this joyful peace. To have the certainty that God is our Father and wants all that is best for us gives us a serene and joyful confidence even in the face, sometimes, of unexpected hardships. In those moments which a man without Faith would consider to be meaningless and deadly blows of fate, the Christian discovers God, and with Him a much greater good than he seems to have lost. How many obstacles vanish, when in our hearts we place ourselves next to this God of ours, who never abandons us! Jesus’ love for His own, for the sick and for the lame is renewed, expressed by different sufferers in different ways. ‘What’s the matter?’ He asks; and we reply, ‘It’s my …’ At once there is light, or at least the acceptance of His will, and inner peace. (J. Escriva, Friends of God, 249) ‗What‘s the matter?‘ He asks us. And we look at Him, and at once nothing at all is the matter. At His side we find our peace and joy again.
We will have difficulties, as everyone always has, but whether they are great or small these contradictions will never be able to destroy our happiness. We have to expect the setback as part and parcel of ordinary life, and we cannot put off being happy until some impossible time arrives in which there are no contradictions, temptations or sorrows. What is more, we should have no opportunities at all for growing in virtue if we had no obstacles to overcome.
We need a firm foundation for our happiness. It cannot depend exclusively on changeable circumstances like good news, good health, peace and quiet, enough money to bring up the family comfortably and having all the material possessions we would like. All these things are good in themselves if they do not separate us from God, but they are unable to provide us with real happiness. Our Lord asks us to be happy always. Let each man take care how he builds. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 3:11) Only He can be the support of our whole life. There is no sorrow which He cannot alleviate: Do not fear, only believe (Luke 8:50), He says to us. He knows everything which is going to happen in our lives, including those things that will result from our stupidity and lack of sanctity. But He has the remedy for them all. Very often, as we are doing now in this time of prayer, we shall have to come to Him in the Tabernacle and have a conversation with Him which is both serious and intimate. And we shall need to lay bare our soul in Confession, and in personal spiritual direction. There we shall find the source of happiness; and our gratitude will show itself in greater Faith, in an ever-increasing Hope which banishes all sadness, and in our care for other people. For yet a little, just a very little while, and He that is to come will come, and shall not delay (Heb. 10:37); and with Him come peace and joy; with Jesus we find meaning in our life. Bringing happiness to other people. Its indispensability in all apostolic work: A gloomy soul is at the mercy of many temptations. How many sins have been committed in the shadow of that gloominess! When the soul is happy it spreads its happiness and is an encouragement to others. When it is downcast it spreads misery and does harm to others. Sad looks spring from egoism, from thinking about oneself to the exclusion of others, from laziness in one‘s work, from lack of mortification, from the search for small self-indulgences, from carelessness in one‘s relationship with God. Unless we forget ourselves, and are not too much taken up with our own affairs, we will not be able to know and serve Christ, in whom is our true happiness. Anyone excessively self-centered will find it very difficult to discover the joy of opening himself out towards God and towards other people. In order to reach God and to grow in virtue we must have joy. Moreover, if we fulfill our duties joyfully we will be able to give a great deal of help to those around us, for this is a happiness that draws many to God. St. Paul instructs the first Christians: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:2) And we can often make life more pleasant for other people in little ways which have no apparent importance in themselves, but which show that we consider others and appreciate them: a smile, a friendly remark, a word of praise, not making a great fuss over unimportant things that would be better overlooked and forgotten. In these ways we can help to make life easier for the people around us. An important part of our Christian mission is to bring happiness to a world which is sad at heart because it is drifting away from God. One can often follow a stream back to its source. The happiness they see in us may lead those who are frequently in our company to the source of all true happiness, Christ our Lord. Let us get ready for Christmas by being close to Our Lady. Let us try, as well, to get ready for the Holy Season by encouraging an atmosphere of Christian peace where we live and work, and by doing all we can in small ways to bring pleasure and affection to those around us. People need to be convinced that Christ has really been born in Bethlehem, and few things are more convincing than the habitual happiness of the Christian, even in the midst of pain and contradictions. Our Lady knew many such contradictions when she came to Bethlehem tired out and after such a long journey, and unable to find a place fit for the birth of her Son. But these problems did not cause her to lose her joy when God became Man, and dwelt amongst us.‖ (From: In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez) Through the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Joseph, St. Columbkill, and all the Holy Angels, may God grant us the grace to be joyful due to closeness of our Lord to each of us! In Christ through Mary, Fr. Kasel