Last week I focused on the hope that we have at the focus of Advent. Two other virtues that are part of the greater virtue of hope are focused on today. The first virtue we see is joy, which is why the priest is allowed to wear “rose” today. This 3rd Sunday of Advent is referred to as Gaudete Sunday because the first words of the Mass in the Entrance Antiphon (which we replaced today with the “Come to us O Emmanuel”) are Gaudete in Domino (“Rejoice in the Lord...for He is near!”) from Saint Paul's letter to the Philippians. The joy that the Lord is near is what we see in the Gospel today. Jesus comes to meet us as our long-awaited Messiah, the anointed one who will save us from our sins, who will heal our ills (a savior in Greek is the same word as a healer). That is why we have joy during this season.
The second virtue related to hope comes to us in the second reading, from the letter of James. He calls us to be patient, and patience can only be practiced when one knows something greater is to be expected. The word for suffering (passio) is rooted to the word for patience (patientia). Whenever we have to wait for something, it means it will require a bit of suffering. But the greater the reward, the more it is worth the wait.
In our world today, we are trained in a Pavlovian sort of fashion to expect immediate results and have instant response whether from the push of a button or a text message. But with God, it doesn't work that way. Nor with any relationship do we just always get this as we want them and when we want them. There is a required give and take. There is a bit of suffering that is necessary – the Lord demands patience from us.
One big way this happens during Advent is the rush that the world has immediately following Thanksgiving to celebrate Christmas. The radio stations, the stores, the workplaces and schools are all driving toward the great holy day, and forgetting the need to prepare well for it.
Today, the Church invites us to wait patiently, just as John the Baptist had to wait quietly for years, and even suffer imprisonment, sacrifice his freedom, and eventually lose his life before his longing for the Kingdom of God could be completely satisfied. But we know that the greater the reward, the more it is worth the wait. And a Messiah who promises us healing and salvation in this life, and eternal bliss in the next, is worth any wait, any sacrifice, any suffering, any pain, and any loss. So with patience and with joy, we continue our Advent preparations for the blessed hope in the person of Christ Jesus.