My dear friends in Christ, today we celebrate the Third Sunday of Advent: Gaudete Sunday! What a great day… the third candle on the Advent wreath has been lit, and the liturgical color of the day is rose. Gaudete is a Latin word meaning “rejoice!” It’s in the imperative mood, meaning that it’s a command. Today the Church is literally commanding us to rejoice, because the Savior is coming soon.
Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, which are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1832). In other words, joy is way different than superficial giddiness… joy is the result of someone who has allowed the Holy Spirit to transform their lives. Even in the most difficult moments and circumstances of life, a person who possesses joy has something that no one can take away from them.
My favorite example of a joyful person is Blessed Chiara Luce Badano. Born in 1971, she was a joyful kid who loved sports and being active. One day, during her teenage years, Chiara felt an excruciating pain in her shoulder, and she was eventually diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, an extremely painful bone cancer.
As the cancer continued to spread, her friends would visit her. They said, “At first we thought we would visit Chiara Luce to lift her spirits up, however, we soon realized that in fact, we were the ones who needed her. Her life was like a magnet drawing us towards her.” Chiara would even go to visit other patients in the hospital to bring them the joy of Christ.
Eventually, her condition got so bad that she was confined to her hospital bed. She could no longer move, yet she said, “At this point, I have nothing left, but I still have my heart, and with that, I can always love.” She died at the age of 18 years old, and was beatified in 2010.
Blessed Chiara understood the meaning of Gaudete Sunday. She understood that authentic joy comes from the Lord, and that true joy endures through even the toughest trials. Blessed Chiara lived out the words of the prophet Isaiah: “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul…” Let’s continue to rejoice in the Lord as we await for the blessed season of Christmas.
Peace, Fr. Tom Skaja