Is it possible to live with Christian joy in a world such as ours? This is the question that Pope Benedict answered this morning as he reflected on the feast celebrated today—“Gaudete” (Rejoice) Sunday.
The Pope answered this pressing question by explaining that, “men and women of all ages and social status, have happily devoted their lives to others,” these people, "who love as Christ loves; and avoid the values of the world, which preaches "the pursuit of pleasure at any cost," are able to live in Christian joy.
Faced with thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI recalled that on this third Sunday of Advent, also known as "Gaudete" Sunday, the Church invites us to live joy with the words of St. Paul in his Letter to the Philippians: "Gaudete in Domino semper - Rejoice in the Lord always."
"The Apostle urges Christians to rejoice because the coming of the Lord, that is, his glorious return, is sure and not delayed,” continued the Pope. The Church itself makes the same invitation, “as it prepares to celebrate Christmas and directs its gaze always towards Bethlehem. Indeed, we expect with some hope the second coming of Christ, because we have known the first."
The Holy Father continued, delving more deeply into the birth of Jesus, saying, "the mystery of Bethlehem reveals the God-with-us, the God who is close to us, not only in a spatial and temporal sense," the pontiff stressed that indeed "God is close because he 'married ', so to speak, with our humanity: he has taken upon himself our situation, choosing to be like us in all things, except sin, to make us to become like him."
"Christian joy therefore arises from this certainty. God is near, he is with me, in joy and in pain, sickness and in health, as a friend and faithful husband. And this joy remains in essence, the same in suffering, and it remains not only on the surface but is in the depths of the person who relies on God and trusts in Him."
As an example of this Christian joy in the midst of suffering, Benedict XVI pointed to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, who "lived in daily contact with poverty, human degradation, [and] death. Her soul has shown the evidence of the dark night of faith, and yet she always had the smile of God for everyone."
After noting that, "joy enters the hearts of those who seek to serve the small and the poor", the Pope warned of the danger of making "happiness an idol". Whoever does this, he said, "is on the wrong road and it becomes very difficult to find the joy of speaking to Jesus."
"And this, unfortunately, is the proposal of cultures that place individual happiness in the place of God, a mentality symbolized by the pursuit of pleasure at any cost, in the spread of the use of drugs as an escape, as a refuge in artificial paradises, which are later revealed as totally illusory," warned the Holy Father.
"Dear brothers and sisters, even at Christmas we can go down the wrong road, by exchanging the real party for one that does not open our hearts to the joy of Christ. With the Virgin Mary help of all Christians, and men who are in search of God, let us move towards Bethlehem to meet the child that is born to us, for the salvation and happiness of all mankind," concluded the pontiff.