Gaudate, the 3rd Sunday of Advent ~ Bible reading for Mass: I: Isaiah 35: 1-6,10; Responsorial: Psalm 146; II: James 5: 7-10;

Gospel: Matthew 11: 2-11

Many years ago I lived and worked, as a seasonal park aide at Armstrong Redwoods. It was a place and time of great joy and beauty as I lived and worked deep in the Gospel of Creation. To this day I know the trails (present and past) well after spending countless hours walking and hiking in the course of my duties. But this was long before cell phones and after hours the closest phone to my tent cabin was the pay phone at the park entrance, a mile away. Sometimes, after dark, I would walk down to use the phone. One night, with immense confidence in my knowledge and sense of direction I decided to leave the flashlight off. This went well as I walked the road south but at the trailhead, I went to the path. Now a Redwood forest, much of it virgin growth, is, at night, with no moon, dark. Very, very dark. But again, with great assurance in my knowledge and talent, I was assured of making this trek. And I did really well, for about three steps, at which point I walked straight into a massive Redwood tree. Surprised I stepped back and took a couple of steps, into a thicket of undergrowth. I quickly realized my usual good sense of direction was gone and my awareness of the trail was, useless. The flashlight came out and as I made my way back to the trail I finished my walk in the woods, humbled and enlightened.

Today, Gaudate Sunday the pink candle is lit. It symbolizes the joy of the Lord as we celebrate, as we anticipate, and celebrate Christ our light. The light of God’s Word this day reminds us of the great need humanity has for this light and this joy. Jesus, in the Gospel, responding to the followers of John the Baptist, recounts his ministry to those in darkness. The imprisoned, the blind, those who were crippled, the deaf, those in poverty, and even the dead had encountered the joyous splendor of light and hope that came with Jesus.

But this Sunday, when indeed we know many depths of darkness around us we live in a world that seeks to extoll the false gods of self. We are told we are the light and all we need to do is discover ourselves and all will be light and joy. I have to say, from experience, my self without my Savior is like wandering the trail, in the dark. But, we are called to the Light, who is Christ, and we are called to be filled with his joy. This holy season of Advent we are lighting these candles as we symbolize our faith, our seeking of Christ our Light, and joy who is coming. And we are reminded that there is no darkness that can overcome the Light of Christ.

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” St. Francis of Assisi

We are called to seek, to follow:

The Light of God’s Joy. Sometimes Christians seem to forget or, to share that God calls us to be filled with His joy. This is not the giddy, empty happiness seen on television advertisements. It is not an happiness determined by what we have, what we are getting or what we think we have achieved. True joy is rooted deep in our God, who is love. It is in that assurance of holy love that joy comes to life. It is in the same love of God that we share with others that brings us the joy of Heaven. Jesus, just hours before his betrayal and passion promised his followers their joy would be full if they would but love each other, and God as he loved them.

The Light of God’s Presence. The season of Advent now brings us to focus upon the coming of Jesus, Emmanuel, of God with us. As we walk the Advent path for the next two weeks we can know the angels would be calling us to draw ever closer to Jesus. Although we may be busier, although we may be even more stressed or worried the Presence of Christ beckons to each of us and all of us. God is truly present in the Holy Eucharist we receive at Mass. His sacred Body and Blood fuel our souls with His eternal Presence no matter how dark the path we walk. We find His Presence in the Word of God. The Living Word, Christ the Lord would speak to us calling us each to draw ever closer into His Kingdom. And we discover God’s Presence in creation as we walk in all the good and beauty He makes. And, perhaps most challenging we find His Presence in each other. And as we draw near to He who is Light we realize that indeed each of us has light, but it it is not self, it is our Savior.

The Light of God’s joy shared. Sometimes we wonder, where is God? Where is our promised Lord in the darkness of life? Many are the promises God makes that His light will never be extinguished. So where does God, our light go? It is not that Jesus our light would leave us. But if the holy candle of His Presence seems dim it could be the problem is not the light but the distance. *Christ our Light, our joy cannot diminish or depart from us. But we are free to depart, to allow distance to come between us and God. Many are the forces of darkness that would seek to dissuade us away from God. But it is our choice to move away or to draw ever closer. And there is one sure way to be certain we are close to that Light of Christ. If we are to share Him His light must be close.

It is so very easy to be mindful of the darkness. It is also so very easy to have confidence in ourselves to find our way on these paths that are often quite dark. But we soon learn that the darkness is very real and deep. And we discover that our abilities, our knowledge, or understanding are limited at best. It is from the difficult places we can look up and see the candle beckoning us home. And as we draw close we realize that this light is…Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.