This is Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday. The readings force us to ask ourselves: What makes us happy, really happy? What really makes for lasting happiness? Certainly not stuff. Technology has advanced at such a fast speed that the stuff that costs so much five years ago is now relatively worthless. You can now buy a combination DVD and VCR player for $30 over at Big Lots. Only a few years ago DVD players were going for $200-300. Before that VCR’s were selling for that amount.
Stuff doesn’t bring lasting happiness. Happiness that lasts comes from relationships. People are far more concerned with the signs of love they bring to the people they love on Christmas than they are at what signs of love they may receive. The relationship is what matters. Many of our seniors will tell you that they really love their husbands or wives and continued to do so after their spouse died. Some who have lost children would also agree. In our faith, we believe that our loved ones who have gone before us are with the Lord watching over us now and waiting for us to join them later on. That’s what makes us happy.
Every Christmas I receive lots of Christmas letters with pictures of many families of the parish I once was assigned to. That is a way of families saying: “Come and share in our joy.” Your children are your joy even when they try your patience. They are the source of your joy because you love them so much for who they are: your children, your own unique reflections of God’s love in your lives.
Happiness is found in relationship.
The greatest relationship we can possibly have is the one that brings us the greatest joy. That is the relationship with Jesus Christ. Real happiness comes from the encounter with God. The relationships we have with other people all take their depth from the relationship we have with the Lord. People truly love each other when they see God’s goodness in each other. When the relationship with God is not present, the relationship of two people is rather shallow.
People saw God in John the Baptist. They were drawn to him, even though he was ruthless in proclaiming the Truth. Actually, that is what fascinated them, more than that; that is what set their hearts on fire. They encountered God in John the Baptist. “Whom did you go out to see?” Jesus asks in today’s Gospel, “A reed that is shaken by the wind?” Or, in our terms, a politician who changes his position with each election according to what would be politically advantageous. No, people came out to hear a prophet and experience God through that prophet. Yes, he was calling them to a radical change in their lives, but he was also calling them to God. And they sensed it. They experienced God in the radical words of the prophet. They jumped into the water to be baptized by John because they wanted what he had. They wanted God. They wanted true happiness.
We have a greater than John the Baptist. We have Jesus Christ. Why are we attracted to Christ? We are attracted to Christ because the encounter with God burns within us. We are attracted to Christ because we know His Love is real for each of us. His Love is real, and it is forever. We are attracted to Christ because He brings lasting happiness.
May the final days before Christmas be for you and your families days of authentic joy, your Joy is God’s joy, God’s joy is your joy.