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Happiness Is God’s Gift

Third Sunday of Advent, Year B (17/12/2023)

(Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11; Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28)

Fr. Samuel Odeh

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God…” (Isaiah 61:10)

Last Sunday we saw how the Holy Spirit we were baptized with empowers us to live righteously in preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas.  On this third Sunday of Advent, we are told that the same Holy Spirit empowers and enables us to be happy and to become agents of Christ in bringing happiness into the lives of others, taking away their sorrow and pain.  The command to all of us today is to rejoice, especially at Christmas.

In Isaiah, the prophet declares that God’s Spirit is upon him to do important things that bring happiness into the lives of others: bringing good news to the suffering; binding up broken hearts; proclaiming liberty to captives; proclaiming the Lord’s year of favor, and “the day of vengeance of our God”; consoling those who mourn.  We are also invited in this reading to rejoice on account of the full and complete salvation that God gives.  The psalm selection is Mary’s song of rejoicing in praise and gratitude for God’s deeds.  In the second reading from 1Thessalonians, Paul instructs his audience to rejoice always, praying constantly and giving thanks to God in all circumstances.  In this way, they are more likely to cooperate with God in bringing his plans to fruition in their lives.  In John, the evangelist gives their account of the witness and ministry of John the Baptist who he describes as sent from God to bear witness to Christ.  Priests and Levites sent by “the Jews” question the identity of John and the nature of his ministry.  He was clearly a prophet anointed by God’s Holy Spirit, the spirit of gladness.  He openly admitted that although the work he was doing in baptizing the repentant bore close resemblance to the work of the Messiah, the person and mission of Christ were by far superior to his.  John tells “the Jews” that Christ is already among them but as one unknown.  Meeting with Christ and knowing him is itself the source of true and lasting happiness.

As Christmas approaches, we are reminded that it is God’s desire that we be happy.  Happiness is now a command, a law, a new way of life.  Do I believe that God who is the source of salvation is also the only source of true and lasting happiness?  Can I be truly prosperous, healthy, wealthy, wise, and happy without the presence of God in my life, without God who is also the life of my soul?  This Christmas, will we wrongly compare with others who we think are more fortunate than ourselves instead of finding happiness in and through the portion God has designated as ours?  Will we express gratitude to God for his blessings to us this Christmas by sharing with others in a way that brings happiness to all who meet with us?  May we all enjoy the happiness that the birth of Christ brings this Christmas.

The one who calls you Is faithful, and he will also accomplish it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

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