December 17, 2012

Rejoice Always by Marie Meints

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” –John 1:5

Yesterday was Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of rejoicing in a penitential season. The third candle on the Advent wreath was lit, and light began to overcome the darkness. We are drawing ever nearer to the coming of the Lord, both in remembrance of His birth on Christmas and in expectation of His coming again. For this, we rejoice, for our Savior has dwelt among us and redeemed the world!

As a nation, it was not an easy day to rejoice. We are grieving the loss of 20 young, beautiful, innocent children and six honorable, beloved adults. The tragedy in Newtown, CT, has filled us with pain and sorrow. Amidst anger, confusion, and sadness, our faith is shaken as we wonder how or why God would allow this to happen. At the same time, we know the only real way we can help the victims, their families, and our country is to pray. In the depths of our hearts, we grasp for God’s goodness, for some sense of light in a time of darkness, hope in a time of despair. It is difficult, impossible even, to rationalize such an irrational event, and so instead, we look beyond the constraints of our humanity and turn to God’s infinite love and mercy.

How, at a time like this, do we rejoice? In our own trials and sufferings, do we rejoice in the Lord?
As we feel pain, both physical and emotional, we remember that our Lord in His humanity felt pain too. God so humbled Himself to become human, endure great suffering, and even experience death on a cross. His mother and friends were filled with sorrow, but the story does not end there. Just when the light seems to be put out, when evil seems to have won, Jesus conquers death and rises from the dead. Through the miracle of His birth, Jesus gave us the hope of a Savior. Through the miracle of His resurrection, He gave us Salvation.

As we read in yesterday's second reading, we are to rejoice always. Do not allow darkness to overcome the light! We may not always rejoice with smiles on our faces or lightness in our hearts. Yet even in times of tragedy, we can rejoice in the hope that Christmas brings, that the Light of the World will soon be among us. We can unite our pain and sorrow with that of our Blessed Mother and walk with her in faith and hope. We can continue to pray, in thanksgiving for our own loved ones, for peace and comfort for the victims of this tragedy, and for the safety and unity of our country. We can rejoice, even in sorrow, for the Lord has come, and He will come again.

This year, rejoicing on Gaudete Sunday has taken on a new meaning for me, and I can scarcely imagine how much more so for the families in Newtown, CT. As much as I want to be full of joy, lighting up the house and the tree, and anticipating the miracle of Christmas, I have moments of great sadness and fear. Instead of smiling as I sing the joyful hymns at Mass, I fight back tears as I look around at all the children safely in their parents’ arms and think of the emptiness those 20 sets of parents are feeling. Still, I rejoice. I rest in the hope of the resurrection and rejoice in God my Savior.

Marie is a Catholic wife, mom of two toddler boys, and the marketing director for Behold.  A former math teacher, she is incredibly smart and patient.  Marie writes about life as a Catholic wife and mom at her blog Help Them to Heaven.  And if that didn't keep her busy enough she is also a member of her parish's Elizabeth Ministry and is on the planning board for First Saturday Peoria, a Catholic women's group whose monthly meetings include praise and worship, snacks, and a guest speaker.  February's meeting is on Authentic Friendship in the Age of Social Media featuring Sr. Helena Burns and Lisa Schmidt and it would be awesome if you could join us! Click here for more information. 

For more posts on Advent traditions and reflections check out the Advent series.