God Rejoices Over You

3rd Sunday of Advent (C)

The third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday, after the first word of the Entrance Antiphon for the Mass: “Gaudete in Domino semper… Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed the Lord is near.” This verse is taken from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, which is also the second reading for this Sunday.

Brothers and sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

(Phil 4:4-7)

St. Paul is telling us that we should rejoice in the Lord because he is near! Gaudete means “rejoice” and as we approach the final stretch of our preparatory season of Advent, we do indeed rejoice liturgically because the celebration of our Lord’s Nativity, his first coming into the world, is almost upon us. But more importantly, as Christians we should rejoice always because the Lord is ever near to our hearts. And if we keep him near, then we will know the peace and joy of which St. Paul speaks.

He will sing joyfully because of you

It is right that we should rejoice. God has come into the world to redeem and save us! But in our focus on our own rejoicing, we shouldn’t lose sight of a very important fact revealed to us in this Sunday’s scriptures. God also rejoices over us.

The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.

(Zep 3:17-18a)

Just think about that for a moment. God rejoices over you. Not in some abstract philosophical way, but in a very real and concrete way. He sings because of you! Meditate on that in prayer for a while.

And God doesn’t just rejoice over you alone, but over every single person he has made. St. John Chrysostom reminds us that “A human being is the living thing most precious to God… [T]he Lord of heaven himself, the only-begotten Son of God, has clothed himself with flesh and freely given himself on our behalf. Shouldn’t we do everything possible, then, and go to every trouble necessary, to provide every kind of care to those who have been valued in this way?”

God rejoices over every single human person. This is why in this Sunday’s gospel reading (Lk 3:10-18), St. John the Baptist instructs us to respond to God’s love by caring for one another.

Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise. We should not hesitate to share our excess with those in need because God rejoices over them!

Do not practice extortion. We should not take advantage of those whom God loves. Do not falsely accuse anyone. We should not tell lies about whom God sings for joy.

Loving our neighbor is a matter of justice. And if it were only a matter of justice that would be enough. But on an even deeper level love of neighbor is a participation in the love of God, who loves each one of us so much that he became one of us so that he could die for us. As we celebrate the great mystery of God’s love this Gaudete Sunday, let us also remember that God sings because of us.