Dear Friends in Christ:
THIS Third Sunday of Advent the word is JOY! Today is a JOYful Sunday…also known as Gaudete Sunday.
Gaudete is a word that derives from the Latin words “gaudium,” which means joy, and “gaudeo,” which means to rejoice or be glad.
The spirit of joy that marks our celebration today and throughout this week comes from the words of Saint Paul, and can be found as our Entrance Antiphon for the Mass today, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.” (Phil 4:4-5)
Advent is a time of JOYful expectation and eager preparation for the Solemnity of Christmas as John the Baptist reminds us in his call in the gospels to “prepare the way of the Lord,” and “one mightier than I is coming!”
As we gather on this Gaudete Sunday, we have many reasons to be filled with JOY. First, and foremost, there is joy to be experienced in looking forward to the annual celebration of Christmas, but there is also joy in recalling the birth of Jesus on the first Christmas. The joy is heightened because He was born to save us from our sins. And, as we learned last weekend, there is also joy to be experienced in anticipation of the Second Coming of Jesus, the other reason for our preparation in Advent. At His Second Coming, when He comes to judge the living and the dead, we pray and hope that we will be found worthy to receive the crown of righteousness (2 Tm 4:8) and a place in the Father’s house (Jn 14:2) to dwell with God and his angels and saints for all eternity.
On this Gaudete Sunday we also see a JOYful color in the candle that is lit and the vestments that are worn. Rose (this is the official terminology of the church for this color NOT pink) represents joy and may be used as the liturgical color for Gaudete Sunday. It should be noted that Purple or Violet remains the official color for the Season of Advent, because all of Advent has a penitential tone, a time to be absolved of sin and be in the state of grace ready for the Lord’s Coming. Gaudete Sunday offers a brief respite to focus on the uplifting, upcoming joyful celebration of the Nativity.
Gaudete Sunday also includes JOYful prayers! The prayers in the Roman Missal on the Third Sunday of Advent convey a joyful message. The immediacy of Christmas is addressed in the Collect, “O God, who see how your people faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity.” This is then followed by two explicit references to joy:
· “enable us … to attain the joys of so great a salvation”
· and “to celebrate them with … glad rejoicing.”
Preface II of Advent says, “It is by his gift that already we rejoice at the mystery of his Nativity” and that “he may find us watchful in prayer and exultant in his praise.” There is also the Communion Antiphon which is a joyful message, “Say to the faint of heart: Be strong and do not fear. Behold, our God will come, and he will save us” (cf. Is 35:4).
Finally there is JOY in the scriptures for this Sunday. In the first reading Zephaniah says "Shout for joy, O daughter Zion…sing joyfully, O Israel…Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem.” (Zp 3:14); in the Responsorial Psalm the Prophet Isaiah exclaims “Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.” (Is. 12); and in the second reading St. Paul insists that we should “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4). The gospel is John the Baptist’s practical advice on how to be prepared for the coming of the Lord!
Wait a minute! On this JOYful Sunday we encounter that stark, strangely dressed, strident saint of the desert? What is he doing here? The one who calls us to repentance? How does that fit in with JOY? Believe it or not, John the Baptist is the patron saint of spiritual joy. After all, he leapt for joy in his mother’s womb at the presence of Jesus and Mary (Luke 1:44). And it says that he rejoices to hear the bridegrooms voice (John 3:29-30). The Baptist was joyful because he was humble. In fact, he shows us the true nature of this virtue. Humility is not beating up on yourself, denying that you have any gifts, talents, or importance. John knew he had an important role which he played aggressively, with authority and confidence. He points the way for the coming of the Lord. He looks away from himself to the Lord…”one mightier than I is coming, I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.”
And what about John’s stark call to repentance? How can this be Good News? Because repentance is all about humility and humility is all about freedom…and freedom leads to inner peace and JOY, joy in the presence of the Lord.
Remember, it is up to us to make the remaining time of Advent (almost two full weeks) a time of spiritual growth and renewal even in the midst of the busyness these weeks bring.
What better way is there then to cleanse our souls from sin? Join us for ADVENT CONFESSIONS beginning at 6PM, NEXT SUNDAY, December 19th at Saint Thomas Becket Church. We will have visiting priests, in addition to Father Peter and myself, available for confessions in the classrooms of the education wing, which is accessible through Saint Thomas Becket Church or the Father Frisbie Hall until 7PM. Stop by and experience the mercy of God on our Advent journey. What a great way to prepare for the coming of the Lord! What a great way to be freed from the darkness of sin and allow the Light of Christ to shine in our lives. We invite you to spend some time in prayer in the Church before and after experiencing the gift of God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
FORWARD WITH FAITH…over the past few weeks I have been writing about how our parish family will be participating in the Forward with Faith campaign, partnering with the Hartford Bishops’ Foundation. Through the Forward with Faith campaign, we will not only meet the needs of our parish here and now, but we will also strive to build the strong financial foundation necessary to address future needs and strengthen our parishes, schools, faith formation programs and social service ministries here and throughout the Archdiocese of Hartford. And, HBF has at its core an emphasis on evangelization, to bring back those Catholics who have fallen away and to inspire non-Catholics to join us in a faith that is enthusiastic and joyful. Archbishop Blair believes strongly in ensuring that our parishes are prepared with the necessary resources to nurture the next generation of Catholics. That is why this campaign is not only, or even principally, about the Archdiocese. Fifty percent of funds collected through each local parish campaign will remain with the parish. Parishes that exceed their goals will receive 80% of those additional funds collected. This is an incredible opportunity for us to help our Archdiocese prepare for the future while taking care of our own parish needs at the same time. Moreover, the remaining funds directed toward the Foundation will be used to strategically invest in the spiritual and economic vibrancy of our parish communities through grant funding. Over the next few weeks, all of you will be hearing more about the campaign as we seek to invite everyone to participate in this extraordinary effort. For 150 years our Catholic Community in Cheshire was built on the sacrifices and dedication of those who came before us. Now it is our turn to make an investment in the future of the Catholic Church in our community. May the Holy Spirit guide and direct our efforts as we begin this historic journey together. Please join me in praying for our success throughout the Forward with Faith campaign.
FORMED.ORG… THE CATHOLIC NETFLIX IS FREE!!! Did I mention it is FREE TO YOU! Finally there is a technology platform for the delivery of award-winning Catholic content. Have you checked it out yet? Don’t wait!
OVER 200 families have signed up already! Why don’t you join us today?
A parishioner wrote me the other day and said “I wanted to say thank you for FORMED.org. I checked it out and got into learning more about confession and I went to confession the other day for the first time in over thirty years. Thank you for this gift to us and for encouraging us to check it out. I am sure glad I did.”
Another parent wrote me the other day an email and said she just wanted to thank the parish for FORMED.org since she and her children have been enjoying the content for kids available on FORMED. She particularly mentioned watching the Saints and Heroes Collection one video a week. She said, “they are well done and the kids enjoy them, thanks!”
What can you find on FORMED.org? Children’s programming that is age-appropriate, audio talks on the faith and spirituality, e-books and more. There are daily reflections, opportunities to pray the Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and Stations of the Cross. There is content directed to couples being married, children in religious education and Catholic schools, parents preparing for the Baptism of their child, teens preparing for Confirmation, and so much more. Did I mention this is available to you for FREE?
My hope and prayer is that the content on FORMED will enrich, deepen, and inspire your faith.
To gain access to all of FORMED’s content, follow these simple steps:
· Go to https://signup.formed.org/
· Enter our parish’s zip code or name to select our parish
· Enter your name and your email address
That’s it! You’re in and once you have signed-up then you can get the free FORMED app for your phone by searching FORMED Catholic in your app store. I cannot wait to hear from more of our parishioners how you are using FORMED in your homes!
As always, remember to pray for vocations, pray for our young people, pray for our parish families and ask God’s blessings as we strive to build His kingdom here.Please know that I am praying for you, and I ask for your prayers for me, that together through the intercession of Saint Bridget of Sweden, our Patroness, and united in the Eucharist, we will reflect the presence of Jesus to the world.