It's the 3rd Sunday of Advent. We've made it halfway through Advent and almost all of 2020. The pink (or rose as it's technically called) candle that we light on the Advent wreath this week reminds us of this and reminds us that we are to rejoice.
Rejoice? In 2020? How do we find joy even in this year?
I may submit to you that this year is the year that we have had to learn how to cultivate joy the most. Let me explain.
Joy is more than happiness. Happiness is a temporary emotion. Joy is something that is underlying and greater. We can be joyful people but not always necessarily happy. This year has certainly not been a happy one. We have seen pain and suffering due to this virus and also the pain and suffering that has existed in our country for centuries due to hatred and racism.
So where is the joy? We each have different things that bring us joy and I still think that this year is the year we have had to search for those things in new and real ways. We have had to give up those temporal things that give us happiness- like celebrating in large groups or going to a concert- and look for what will sustain us for much longer than those temporary things.
Now, certainly, we can find joy in groups and in music and maybe some of the things that we've had to give up, but we've had to focus on the things this year that truly matter, and this is how we cultivate joy.
In my adult life, I've grown to make going to confession a habit as much as I can. I try to go pretty frequently. When I was at CUA, it was so easy to run into the Basilica on campus, that I almost started to take the sacrament for granted. Now, I try to go on Saturdays, but sometimes Saturdays are the days I am running around doing errands, so I really have to schedule it in.
Since it is Advent and Advent and Lent are the liturgical seasons we focus on repentance, I scheduled some time in to go to confession yesterday. I went to a parish and priest that I had never been to before just to kind of get my out of my comfort zone or routine. When it came time to give me my penance, the priest gave me something that in all of my 30+ years of going to confession I don't think that I have heard before. He told me to "Praise the Lord" as my penance.
And it occurred to me- isn't this what those who were healed by Christ did in the Scriptures? After He had healed them, didn't they go forth rejoicing? It makes so much sense and I couldn't believe that I have never been given this penance before. Why should we go away still lamenting our sin when He has given us His forgiveness? This was the perfect penance for this week focusing on Joy as well.
When we think of Jesus, do we think of joy? Perhaps we think of Him as a pretty serious guy, but he would have rejoiced with those that he healed. He would've celebrated things with his apostles and friends. He would've enjoyed spending time with His Holy Family.
On this Gaudate Sunday in 2020, it's a great time to think about what brings us true joy and what brought Christ joy as well. Do we count ourselves as a source of joy for Him and others?
Today is a great day to meditate on joy and to go forth praising the Lord for all that we do have in our life. Even in a year when we have had to deny ourselves much, there is still joy. We may have had to see it and experience it differently this year, but even in 2020, joy is still there below the surface.