By: Fr. Joseph Briody, Professor of Sacred Scripture
Wider society has a calendar: Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small-Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday, and so on. Around this time, Christmas joy extends into wider society in lights, decorations, songs, festive atmosphere, and good will. This is wholesome, echoing the joy Christ brings.
For Christians, the Liturgical Year is important. It’s where we meet Christ in his mysteries—in his Word and in the Sacraments. If you glance at the Liturgical Calendar in your parish sacristy, you’ll notice it begins on the First Sunday of Advent with the words, “The beginning of the Year of Grace 2023.” That’s how we see time. Time is a time of grace. Time is God’s messenger (Saint Peter Faber). God meets us in time and wants to give us his gifts.
Advent begins a new Year of Grace during which we open our hearts to the mysteries of Christ. His mysteries become our mysteries, his life becomes our life—giving us new purpose and transforming us. Every year we make this journey with Christ. We make his life our own by allowing him to live out his mysteries in us so that we too are reborn, so that we live for him, die with him, and are raised up with him.
Each Liturgical Year, we should be growing closer to Jesus. Are we? Am I closer to Jesus than I was last Advent? Will I try to be closer to him this Christmas? Today, Gaudete Sunday, tells me that this is possible. “Rejoice! The Lord is near . . .” But will I let him come near me? Will I let him into my life and heart? It’s easy keep him at a safe distance. However, if he is at a distance, then our joy is less. The closer we let him come to us, the more joyful we will be. The pain sometimes involved in giving up our sins fades before the greater joy of his closeness. No wonder the great Advent prayer is “Come, Lord Jesus!”
We rejoice because the Lord is near (today’s Introit). Saint John of the Cross tells us that “Joy is not the absence of suffering but the presence of God.” It is the presence of God that brings us joy, even in hard times. And joy, Chesterton notes, “is the gigantic secret of the Christian.” Joy comes from God. It comes from knowing he is near, knowing that he sees all things and knows all things and can do all things—and that he loves me.
The more we have Christ, the more joyful we will be. What keeps me from Christ and from joy are my sins. Saint John the Baptist calls us to repent, to give up our sins. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes them away. The Baptist prepares the way. Jesus is “the One who is to come.” There is no other. No one else is coming. Welcome Jesus and you will find great joy. Ask him to come closer and to live his life in you. Come Lord Jesus! He is already at hand. Gaudete!