Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
"Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say rejoice."
What kind of rejoicing can come from hearing St. John's description of the coming of the Messiah? "...he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."(Jn 3: 16-17) And yet, St. Luke tells us we are to welcome this news as good: "So with other exhortations, he preached good news to the people." (Jn 3: 18) John's preaching about the judgment, that some souls might be lost, can hardly be considered "good news"; unless it is the truth.
The truth, however difficult though it may be for us to hear, is always good news. St. John lays bare the truth about the sins of the people, the tax collectors and the soldiers, instructing them as to how to correct their lives. This is good news, though painful to hear, for it will bring repentance, conversion and healing. Rejoicing will follow, for those who amend their lives enjoy God's mercy unto everlasting life. It is the truth which is the "Good News".
Today on Gaudete, or "rejoice", Sunday we remember that though our lives are marked by waiting and watching, by penance and prayer, we are yet people of joy. Our joy is a gift and fruit of the Holy Spirit, given to us in fullest measure, that we may love God. "The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Joy is not possible unless one receives the Spirit's gift of divine charity.
The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which "binds everything together in perfect harmony"; (Col 3:14) it is the form of the virtues; it articulates and orders them among themselves; it is the source and the goal of their Christian practice. Charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love. (CCC 1827)
We rejoice because we are secure in the knowledge of the love of God who has truly revealed himself as our Father through the gift of his only-begotten Son at Bethlehem.
St. John foretells the coming of the Incarnate God who is Judge and Lord. The people, stricken with fear at St. John's message, ask him, "What are we to do?" He instructs them to live in charity: give a coat to him who has none, share your food, act with justice. These are the fruits of the virtue of charity.
The fruits of charity are joy, peace, and mercy; charity demands beneficence and fraternal correction; it is benevolence; it fosters reciprocity and remains disinterested and generous; it is friendship and communion. (CCC 1829) The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: "charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.' (Gal 5:22-23) (CCC 1832)
Heaven, the union of all the saints and holy angels with the Triune God, is the only place of unending and complete joy. Hope of heaven, together with faith and charity, are the virtues by which the Holy Spirit enables us to rejoice with authentic joy flowing from and leading toward the Trinity.
We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. (Cf. Rom 8: 28-30; Mt 7:21) In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere "to the end" (Mt 10:22; cf. Council of Trent: DS 1541.) and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God's eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for "all men to be saved." (1 Tim 2:4) She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven. (CCC 1821)
The virtue of hope flows from true charity, bringing rejoicing, enabling us to begin to anticipate, here on earth, the love of heaven. The life of charity enables us to look toward the second coming with joy. St. Teresa of Avila teaches Christian joy made possible through hope in God's mercy for eternal and unending joy:
Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end. (CCC 1821)
Let's pray for each other until, next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick
(See also nos. 535, 696, 2447 in the CCC.)