3rd Sunday of Advent 13.12.15 Gaudete Sunday
Why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter in soul, who long for death, but it comes not, and dig for it more than for hidden treasures, who rejoice exceedingly and are glad when they find the grave? (Job 3,20-22)
This passage contrast somewhat with today’s Epistle: Rejoice in the Lord always! (Ph 4,4).
Yet both are the word of God. They do not contradict each other, but remind us that we go through a range of feelings in this life.
There is always a mixture of joy and sorrow, though we might suspect the sorrow is more prominent.
Being joyful is not something that can be switched on like a tap. It is not so much how we look – whether we are smiling or laughing. It is more directing us to the Source of joy; and then we realize we have more than we need; in fact we have it all.
We have Jesus Christ in our midst, and that must be a cause of joy - and therefore we must be joyful.
It is a principle of how to proceed rather than how we feel at any moment.
Circumstances come and go and there are some things we just cannot be happy about (eg coming across the scene of an accident); but we are always happy that God is with us; and that He has the power and love to make things come to their proper end.
Joy has to work its way through the system. It has to be from within. It is not something we can just take in from outside. Certain stimulants can help but only for a time. They address the symptoms but not the basic condition.
Joy comes from deep within; it is a sense of rightness, of order, of things being as they should; of standing on firm foundations; of travelling in the right direction; of anticipating final salvation.
These are good things to have. They do not remove the many sufferings we have in this life.
But they put them into context. And we come to realise that in the race between joy and sorrow in fact it is the joy that is way out in front.
Joy is deeper than sorrow, and more enduring - as God is greater than the devil, or life is greater than death.
There are many people who feel as bad as Job felt. We cannot just talk them into happiness. But we can help them to see the direction they need to go.
And that direction is Christ-wards. Rejoice always means ‘Be close to the Lord’ or ‘Be in union with Him’ or any similar expression.
If we are with Him we are with the source of life and every blessing.
We are not guaranteed an easy life but a better one, and certainly a better eternity.
Today people are very impatient with God. If He is there why does He not show Himself?
Why does He not remove all the suffering? – they ask.
This impatience and anger prevent them from seeing where the solution lies. It is not just quick-fixes from heaven but a whole attitude change required.
Some things will be discovered only if given time. Let the tree grow and you will see it bears fruit. Chop it down to see what is wrong with it and it will not produce anything.
We cannot always be grinning broadly, but we can always have a calm serenity. We grin sometimes and we cry sometimes. They are not incompatible. They are simply different parts of the same drama.
But the overall issue is whether or not there is anyone flying this plane? Is there someone at the controls of this universe? We know there is. So we are joyful.