There is an idea prevalent now that religion hinders one’s freedom, that religion cramps one’s lifestyle, that it is an oppressive force. Some people are ashamed to talk about religion to each other or their friends. Some believe their reputation would suffer a big blow if it were known that they had strong faith so they hide it. Some people say they would rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.
The joy and happiness in the Lord that we celebrate today is symbolized by lighting a rose candle on the Advent wreath today instead of a purple one and also symbolized by wearing rose vestments today instead of purple ones. I would like to recall a number of times when we see Jesus being happy and joyful. Did Jesus feel cramped and hindered?
Not according to what we read in the Gospels. In John 15:11 we read Jesus saying, “I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete.”
Jesus was joyful and wanted his disciples to share his joy, “I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete.” Jesus attended many dinners: the one given him by Matthew/Levi after he called him; at Zacchaeus’ house; and Pharisees invited Jesus to dinner; and there was dinner at Lazarus’ house.
At Cana Jesus changed between 120 and 180 gallons of water into wine so that the wedding guests could continue to enjoy themselves, and it was wine of the best vintage. That was a lot of wine, but we must remember that at that time the wedding celebration lasted a week which explains why so much wine was needed.
Each time he told them to give up something or not to be greedy. Our journey of conversion is a journey from wanting and being greedy and possessive to becoming unselfish. That was the journey John the Baptist asked his hearers to make and the journey we are challenged to make this Advent so that we will have true joy and happiness to celebrate at Christmas rather than just Santa Claus coming to town. I know it’s very difficult when we live in a material world that is pummeling us with advertisements, social media banners, pop-ups, and even on our cell phones.
Of course, we will. We will have troubles and problems as long as we live but we will have inner peace in the Lord and find our happiness in the Lord. I find the following two examples of being happy in the Lord in spite of severe difficulties very challenging and I doubt that I could be equally happy in such difficult situations but they are examples to us of being happy in the Lord.
Fr. Maximilian Kolbe was in one of the Nazi concentration camps during World War II and volunteered for the death chamber in the place of one of his fellow prisoners. The jailers reported that whereas the death chambers were usually places of despair and cursing, in this case the condemned men were singing hymns.
The Lord has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies; The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear…