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In Good Times And Bad . . . Rejoice In The Lord!

January 6, 2021 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. JAMES ALTMAN

Dear family, as we celebrated the Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, several weeks ago, we should remember that it gets its name from the first word of the Introit of the Traditional Mass: “Gaudete in Domino semper” — rejoice in the Lord always!
The fullness of the acclamation is revealed in its two parts.
The first part is the first half of that acclamation: Rejoice in the Lord. Watch now what it did not say. It did not say rejoice in this, that, or the other thing. In other words, when we are instructed to rejoice in anything, we are to rejoice in the Lord.
The second part is the second half of that acclamation, and it is just one word: Always! And again, watch now what it did not say. It did not say rejoice sometimes, like when somehow “the stars align” and in our minds we’re having what we call a good day.
No. Gaudete Sunday means rejoice in the Lord always, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, in peace and in persecution, in life and in death. Rejoice. In the Lord. Always!
Dear family, the reason why the world is spinning out of control all around us — and we have to get this straight in our heads and quit pretending otherwise — is that too many laity and clergy and hierarchy alike do not rejoice in the Lord, and even some of those who do, do not do so always. And yet, as the Introit we used to have in the Traditional Mass taught us, we are called to rejoice in the Lord always.
Sacred Scriptures teach us all about that kind of rejoicing. Listen to a verse from Sunday’s first reading from Isaiah: “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul.” Notice Isaiah did not say, “I rejoice half-heartedly in the Lord.” Isaiah gave no limp-wristed, half-hearted rejoice. No. He rejoiced heartily.
Can you imagine going out to eat and not being surrounded by a hundred masked-up subhumans, but rather Isaiah and his buds were there, and you saw him and them heartily rejoicing? How many times have we been out at dinner and a table over there had some people who were heartily rejoicing? They liven up the place, don’t they? We look at them and say, “Somebody’s having a good time!” Tell me, dear family: When was the last time you saw a group of people heartily rejoicing out at dinner?
So getting back to the point of that Sunday’s Sacred Scriptures, in the first reading from Isaiah, just keep in mind the thought of seeing Isaiah out with his friends heartily rejoicing over dinner. The next part of Sacred Scripture was the responsorial taken from the Gospel of Luke: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Those are the magnificent words of Our Blessed Mother — also known as the Magnificat — for the proper translation is, “My soul magnifies the Lord!”
Next in Sunday’s readings came from St. Paul to the Thessalonians: “Brothers and sisters: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” That is almost identical to his Letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always: Again I say: Rejoice.”
Such a proposition coming from him should clear up any confusion we have about the sincerity of his admonition to rejoice always. Just ponder all the hell-on-earth St. Paul went through as detailed in his Second Letter to the Corinthians: Fierce beatings, and numerous brushes with death. Five times he received forty lashes minus one. Three times he was beaten with rods. Once he was stoned and left for dead. (Remember what he did next — he got up, dusted himself off, and went back into town the next day to preach!)
Three times he was shipwrecked. He constantly was in danger from rivers, robbers, other Jews, Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, and dangers among false brothers. He was in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fasting, and through cold and exposure. Holy Moses, dear family, if anyone was entitled to feel slightly grumpy, it would have been St. Paul!
But what did he teach and preach? Rejoice in the Lord always!
Yet we know full well, there are plenty of people out there who hardly grasp this Truth, or fail to grasp it altogether. And sometimes, if we’re honest, we must confess that at times we are a little grumpy too. In fact, maybe we are more than just a little grumpy. So just understand, when that happens to you or me, we are not rejoicing in the Lord. We have taken our eyes off the Lord and gotten grumpy with temporal inconveniences and temporal things — which cannot satisfy the hunger in our souls.
Is that unusual, that humanity as a whole turns away from God, focuses on temporal things and then gets grumpy? No, it is not unusual at all. In fact, the first chapter of the Gospel of St. John makes it clear that such was the case back in Jesus’ day. The Third Sunday of Advent had a portion of that first chapter but, unfortunately, as is often the case, an important chunk of it right in the middle was left out.
The passage began with the following: “A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.”
Then it skipped a bunch of verses before it resumed. And the verses it skipped explain exactly why what we are seeing today is nothing new. What we are seeing today is the exact same thing people saw 2,000 years ago.
Immediately after the verse we did hear — “he [John] was not the light, but came to testify to the light,” came the verses we did not hear:
“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name.”
And next comes what might be my personal all-time favorite verse of Sacred Scripture: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:9-14).
As we have just celebrated Advent and Christmas and are now entering a New Year, let us always remember: Rejoice!

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