3rd Sunday of Advent
We might ask, in the ninth month of the pandemic, ‘what are we being called to rejoice about’. The call to rejoice in the opening prayer of today’s mass, Isaiah saying ‘exult for joy, rejoice in God’ St Paul saying ‘be happy at all times’ Our Lady saying ‘my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour’, has been the same call issued for two thousand years, in spite of persecutions, wars, famines and plagues.
We are being called to rejoice about the love of God for us revealed in Jesus. Its not just that this love promises, if we accept it, a time of no more problems, no uncertainties, no money worries, no family worries, a time of being united with everyone we love, friends and family, even those who have died, a time of knowing and loving God for ever, in perfect, everlasting joy and happiness. Its that if we accept God’s love and respond to it this future already spills over into this life. In spite of all the difficulties we face we already experience the love of God and can hardly realise how wonderful it will be in the future.
As often, marriage is a good analogy. In my experience most really happy successful marriages have weathered storms. They have been through difficult times. But even at the worst of times, the love, that knowledge that ‘this person is someone without whom I would be incomplete, the purpose of my life is to give myself to this person’ is a cause of rejoicing. Even in the most difficult, tragic or testing times it is the beauty and the promise of the love that triumphs. And the love puts tragedies and difficulties in this world into perspective because in their hearts the lovers know that this passing world can never contain their love. Their love is eternal and will only reveal itself in all its beauty and goodness and truth when it is freed from the limits of this world.
But of course, such a wonderful gift as love is not cheap. It involves constant sacrifice, constant care, it involves patience, tolerance, sorrow, apologies, and forgiveness - though all of them are of course a cause for joy because they are born of and lead to love.
Imagine a husband and wife who said ‘we will always be faithful to each other except on Wednesdays or if we’ve had a bit to drink’ or a husband who said ’I love my wife so much, she is the reason for my existence, so I will always try to spend 45 minutes with her each week, unless I’m tired, or poorly or have something more important to do’. Or a woman who said ‘My husband is such a good loving man, so I never bother to listen to him or do anything for him, he’ll always forgive me.’
We would question if they could possibly understand the wonder of love, indeed we might ask if there was any love. Recognising that God always loves us, that God is love, that he goes to cross out of love we can apply this analogy to our relationship to God.
And the prayers and readings of mass today proclaim ‘my love for God such that even in difficult times I rejoice, not just because that love is greater than anything else but because I already sense how wonderful it will one day be’.