Summary: ‘Tis the season to nurture a joyful spirit.

It’s Gaudete Sunday, ‘Tis the season to nurture a joyful spirit.

To illustrate, writer Gordon McDonald tells about a Nigerian woman who is a physician at a great teaching hospital in the United States. This distinguished woman came out of the crowd to say something kind about the lecture McDonald had just given.

She introduced herself using an American name.

"What's your African name?" He asked. She immediately gave it to him, several syllables long with a musical sound to it.

"What does the name mean?" He asked her.

She answered, "It means 'Child who takes the anger away.'"

When McDonald inquired as to why she would have been given this name, she said, "My parents had been forbidden by their parents to marry. But they loved each other so much that they defied the family opinions and married anyway. For several years they were ostracized from both their families. Then my mother became pregnant with me. And when the grandparents held me in their arms for the first time, the walls of hostility came down. I became the one who swept the anger away. And that's the name my mother and father gave me."

McDonald concluded: It occurred to me that her name would be a suitable one for Jesus.”

He comes at Christmas to reconcile us with the Father. And, as we receive forgiveness in Christ, our ability to forgive may be the most important factor for our happiness.

2. Repentance is also the way to joy as seen our Gospel today.

Repentance is a dynamic condition. It’s not linear. E.g. You don't go from "I'm sick" straight to "I'm better." Holiness and spiritual health is about making good choices everyday.

And so John the Baptist does not demand that they wear sackcloth and sit in ashes to express their repentance. He does not tell them to offer more sacrifices in the temple. He just tells them to share what they have with those in need. This is the good fruit of true repentance; this is how they will avoid being thrown in to the fire.

John the Baptist said: Whoever has two cloaks should share one. The same with food.

For tax collectors: collecting too much is occupational temptation; don’t do it.

Soldiers: do not falsely accuse anyone; don’t shake down people for money, be satisfied with your salary.

We can ask ourselves: What in my situation poses the most dangerous temptation for me?

3). Besides forgiveness and repentance, an appreciation of praise and worship most certainly leads to spiritual joy.

e.g. “Do not fear, Zion” is a typical reassurance formula, we heard in our First Reading.

Jerusalem is invited to let its joy resound with four imperatives: sing aloud, shout, rejoice, and exult. The motivation for the joy is nothing other than the presence of God as King.

Historically, these verses foreshadow the end of the Babylonian exile and the return to Israel to their land. They have been chastened and purified.

That have seen how their repentance has led to joy.

Spiritual joy is not always feeling joy. In fact, the occasional bad mood can serve well since it can help you detect lies and avoid traps and see through temptations. The key to learning how to return to joy is to use the emotion itself, in the moment, to build a better relationship with others.

Overall, our life should be about spiritual joy because joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

e.g. A charming story is told about Blessed Jordan of Saxony, who succeeded St. Dominic as the second Master General of the Dominican Order in the thirteenth century. Once during night prayer, a novice experienced a giggling fit. It quickly proved contagious, and soon all the novices were giggling. A scandalized brother tried to threaten them into silence, but Jordan rebuked him, saying, “Who made you novice master?” and then told the young men, “Laugh on! You may well laugh, for you have escaped from the Devil, who formerly held you in bondage. Laugh away, dear sons!”

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