I begin by asking the children if they know why Fr. Joe and I are wearing pink vestments this week and assuming none of them have the right answer, I call on Fr. Joe to explain the meaning of Gaudete Sunday (third Sunday of Advent). The operative word I’m looking for is joy. This is a story about joy…
Once upon a time, there were two children who did not know each other but who spent an entire afternoon together one day at the park. This is the story of Sunny and Felicity.
Sunny lived in a gigantic mansion, a huge house, with his mother and father and many brothers and sisters. They had servants, people who lived at the mansion night and day and who served Sunny and his family delicious meals, made sure their mansion was kept spotless clean, did all of their laundry, drove the children to school and soccer practice and dance rehearsals, and… pretty much did everything that Sunny and his family asked of them. They had a dog named Merry and it was the servants who took care of him. There were ten television sets, all the latest video games, and an indoor swimming pool in Sunny’s house… and it was wonderful. Sunny and his family were happy.
Felicity lived with her grandmother and brother in a small home on the outside of the city. It was very nice and the grandmother and Felicity and her brother kept it clean and tidy. There were no servants there and they had only one television set and they did not have any of the latest video games. They had a cat named Charm and it was Felicity and her brother’s job to take care of her. No one drove them places… they rode buses everywhere. Or walked. Felicity and her family were filled with joy.
On one particular day, the school that Sunny went to had a field trip to the park and so off to the park they all went. On that same day, Felicity’s school had a field trip to the same park and off to that park they also went. Sunny was taken in a special car all by himself and Felicity went there with her classmates in the school bus.
After playing in the park for a while, Sunny decide to rest so he went over to a park bench to sit down. Right about the same time, Felicity decided to do the same thing. She looked around at all the benches and saw that there was only one place to sit and that was right next to… Sunny. So, she went over and sat next to him.
After about five minutes, they started talking to each other. Sunny introduced himself and Felicity did the same. It was a little awkward at first since they did not know each other, but after a little while, it was ok. They were telling each other about their lives.
Sunny said: “I live in an awesome house… it’s huge. I can watch tv while I’m eating lunch and taking a bath and any time I want to. I have a driver who takes me places, wherever I want to go and whenever I want to go there. And I can play video games at night when I’m supposed to be sleeping. I have a swimming pool in my house too. My parents are super busy, so I usually talk to the people in my house who clean it and who make us food. And my brothers and sisters are busy too because they also have their own drivers and go a lot of places whenever they want. We have a dog named Merry. I don’t have to clean up after him but he never likes to sit with me. He always stays with the people in my house who take care of him.”
Felicity said: “I live in a really nice house… it’s perfect for us. I can only watch tv in the family room but that’s ok. I usually walk places or take a bus and I don’t play a lot of video games. We don’t have a swimming pool but I do like to swim. My grandmother takes care of me, she tells me stories at night and I help her cook supper. She is teaching me how to make chicken piccata and stuffed olives and I’m getting really good at it. She is also teaching me how to make mittens and how to grow tomatoes in our garden outside. My brother and I started the garden together and we always work in it after school in the spring and summer. We have a cat named Charm and she always sits 0n my lap.”
After a little while, both Sunny and Felicity had to go back to their classmates and then return to their schools. They had fun that day at the park and both of them really enjoyed meeting each other. Sunny thought a lot about what Felicity said to him.
That night, Sunny approached his parents and said: “I am very happy here, but I would like to learn how to make chicken piccata and stuffed olives. Can you teach me? I want to make my own mittens and I want to make some for both of you too. I would like to start a garden that my brothers and sisters and I can work on together, not the people here who help us. We will do it. I would like us to start taking care of Merry, taking him out when he has to go and feeding him and cleaning up after him. And I want us all to spend more time together.”
The mother and father looked at each other. They were moved by what Sunny told them. Deep down inside, they had been thinking about this too but never talked about it until Sunny brought it up. They knew that they wanted some of those things that Sunny was suggesting and so they agreed.
And that’s when joy came to their home and their family.
There is a big difference between happiness (like what Sunny experienced) and joy (which is what Felicity had). A famous writer named Henri Nouwen described it this way. He said that happiness mostly comes from what is outside of us… it comes from what surrounds us in our lives, oftentimes things we have little control over. It comes from what we want, which we sometimes can have but sometimes cannot. Joy comes more from within. It comes from knowing that no matter what is going on around us, we will always be loved, cherished. No matter what we do, we will be forgiven. We will be consoled… and we will be comforted.
Joy and happiness sometimes go together, but not always. Nouwen said that Jesus came to bring us joy and the knowledge and confidence that his heavenly father will always love us, always forgive us, always console us, always comfort us… no matter what.
On the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, we remember and celebrate this fact. We remember that this is the God who made us. Who adores us. Who will never forget us. Who sent his son to us in the form of a tiny baby on Christmas day. This is Advent. And this is joy.