Third Sunday of Advent, “Rejoice & Suffering”

ImageI love words beginning with the letters “re” because those letters begin a word that push us to something more, something greater and sometimes just to something.

Even the word REtirement begins with those two delicious letters.

Ahhhh.  REtirement, the “Golden Years.”  Finally a life of relaxing, recollecting, reading, reexamining, reawakening, rest and refreshments.  Excellent “re” words that fill your days for the rest of your lives.  (Notice the “re” in rest!?)

Then there are the Church’s two “RE” words.  Advent has “rejoice” and Lent has “repent.”  The former is welcomed but the latter…well, that’s months away.  In other words, let’s rejoice first and then repent later.  (In terms of weather, isn’t it interesting that we “rejoice” in winter and “repent” in the spring?  What’s wrong with that ecclesial picture?)

“Rejoice,” is to experience joy.  Can you feel joy?  I don’t mean happiness but joy, a must deeper feeling and much more enduring.  You can only rejoice if you’ve known some suffering, disappointment or struggle in your life.

We “rejoice” because we anticipate the “renewal” (another very important “re” word) of the incarnation which destroyed our exiled and joined us to the ranks of God’s daughters and sons.  Because of the life and death of Christ our lives now has meaning – each of us to determine through our prayer what Christ’s life meant to us.

Is pink my color?  (The Third Sunday’s vestment is the color pink.)  Today pink is everybody’s color.  “Rejoice.”  Today we rejoice – pretty in pink.  Don’t we say, “I’m in the pink,” to our friends when success has finally come our way and satisfaction is reached?  If red means broke and broken then pink means joy.  “Rejoice.”

And who bought this pink vestment for me to wear this day?  It was a man whose pink was called ALS, that debilitating muscle disease dreaded by all because while the body breaks down the mind remains clear and crisp.  Watching your body stop functioning while your mind and most importantly your spirit says, “I’m in the pink.”  That’s the rejoicing this third Sunday of Advent provides.

The exile is over, there is only now a union with God witnessed by a caring mom and achieved through her son who lived among us as long as he could.

There is pain but that is always in human terms.  When it is suffering then it has the meaning of fully recognizing the limits of Jeff’s life and the treasure that each moment held for Jeff.  That’s rejoicing.

This bears repeating: There is no exile, there is only a union with God witnessed by a mom and achieved through her son.  (The Blessed Mother witnessed and her Son, Jesus Christ achieved it.)

Can we rejoice today, this day, in a community where people are struggling, hard of hearing, failing eyesight, wobbly legs, shaky hands and more aches and pains than there are scooters and walkers.

Can we “still” (Wait.  Never say “still” – a vibrant 20 year old has no idea what rejoice means; only that Christmas is two weeks ago) rejoice in its full and beautiful meanings?

Can we “now” rejoice on this Third Sunday of Advent when anticipation, wonder, imagination and hope are the key words leading to “rejoice?”

Advent is all about anticipation and knowing that the dream has happened.  We are fully awake now to the dreamer’s dream.  It’s a “dream come true” every time there is a smile in the midst of pain, a shoulder touched when words are useless, a stupid joke just to break the awkward silence of someone dying.

Jesus lives among us.  Jesus breathes within us.  Jesus walks between us.  Jesus walks behind and in front also.  Let us rejoice and be glad because the “RE” word of this season in our lives is “rejoice.”

Do you think that I said “rejoice” enough?

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About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). www.Salvatorians.com. He is associate pastor of partnering parishes, Christ King and St. Bernard parishes in Wauwatosa, WI.
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