The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God. I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels. As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise spring up before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11)
Recently, a parishioner shared a delightful story about their family and our Giving Tree. As you know, for many years, St. Dominic’s has sponsored a Christmas Giving Tree that is adorned with angelic ornaments with gift ideas for children and other needs for folks helped by our Lima Center. Inspired to make it a family event, one parent invited their children to choose an ornament from the tree and go shopping together for the suggested toy. But there was this twist. Each child was given $50 and told that they could spend as much as they wanted on the gift, but whatever remained they could spend on themselves. The result? The children so vigorously plunged themselves into the project of purchasing the perfect gift that, in the end, they were left with just a small smattering of change. They were so focused on buying the best possible present that they gave little thought to anything else. The delight they experienced in buying their gifts for others overshadowed every other consideration.
This image of childlike zeal to buy a precious and unique gift shapes the heart of Advent. The first reading reminds us that we are called to give the gift of ourselves. Often we mistakenly imagine that our happiness depends on the honor we receive, the pleasure we experience, or the wealth we acquire. During Advent, we are reminded that our happiness is rooted in the ways in which we go beyond fulfilling our own needs and desires. Like the prophet Isaiah, we have been chosen to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD. The extent to which we are successful in extending mercy and compassion to others shapes our ability to be joyful.
This is why we celebrate “Gaudete” Sunday. In Latin, the word Gaudete means “to rejoice” and this is the first word of the Mass Introit for this Sunday. Solemnized by lighting the rose colored candle on our wreath, we exult in the anticipation that Christmas is little more than 10 days away: the celebration of Christ’s birth is within sight. Moreover, Gaudete Sunday invites us to consider where we discover the joy of Christmas. If this Advent has been about nothing more than going about our business, we might miss the joy of the season. But if we, like the children who were given $50 and a choice, endeavor to give of ourselves to others, we will experience the joy of Christ coming to birth in our lives.
~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.