Gaudete Sunday, this third Sunday of Advent, is one in which the faithful rejoice, for the feast of the birth of the Lord is near. The penitential aspect of Advent gives way to the joy which springs from deep within our hearts, a joy which we cannot manufacture or feign. It does not emanate from the superficial pleasures of life for it is a Divine gift that brings the sense of fulfillment, peace and confidence that Emmanuel is with us.
It is from this gift of love that spring all other gifts—the practices, carried out by ordinary people in everyday settings, that bring light, relief and measures of happiness to the communities in which they find themselves. It is fitting on this day to recognise those who are the hands and feet, the arms and eyes and ears of the One who has bestowed upon us that wondrous gift of salvation. In serving others, they are serving the Risen Lord and amassing eternal joy for themselves in Heaven.
In the midst of the excitement that pervades the Christmas season, we can easily forget those who care for the elderly in their homes or in Homes for the Aged. They must deal, on an ongoing basis, with the heavy responsibility of ensuring that their physical, emotional and spiritual needs are met. The demands on their time, their energy and often on their wallets are onerous yet faithful caregivers bring to the fore the virtues of patience and compassion. The difficulty of sustaining these virtues cannot be called into question, yet the very sacrifice which is offered up is more pleasing to God than a financial contribution that may be huge in earthly value but minuscule in genuine worth.
It is also a time to rejoice in the lives of the men and women whose vocations revolve around the wellbeing of children. At all stages of their lives children demand quality time but in the hurly-burly of life, their voices can be lost, their dreams crushed and their concerns ignored. The perceptiveness, strength of purpose and kindness that characterise the true parent, teacher or neighbour facilitate the development of the child’s personality and talents and give him a sense of dignity and worth. Jesus had a special care for the little ones and it is for His sake that they must be affirmed, protected and helped to optimise their own unique gifts. The natural desire to promote the happiness of children at Christmas time is the ongoing, sometimes discouraging yet completely invaluable work of those called to serve the child Jesus in these little ones all through the year.
There are other special groups of people who attend to the Christ who was born in a lowly stable and who was removed to a place of safety in the face of the serious threat from Herod. The servants of the poor, the oppressed, the prisoner and the refugee confer a sensitivity and passion for healing on a world which sometimes forgets what it means to be humane.
Let us, like John the Baptist, proclaim the coming of the One who is the source and personification of a joy that cannot be quantified, a hope and joy that will never die.