THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT

Always, without ceasing, in all circumstances

First Reading: (Is. 61:1-2, 10-11):Rejoice in the Lord
Second Reading:(1 Thess 5:16 – 24):Always be joyful, always give thanks, pray without ceasing,
Gospel: (Jn 1: 6-8, 19-28) : John the Baptist's witness
Chinese Classics: “The whirlwind will not last the morning out;
The cloudburst ends before the day is done.”(1)
“Wind or rain, overcast or bright, are external circumstances, Deep in my heart there is only the dazzling sun and the colourful sky.”(2)

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thess 5:16-22)

Always, Without ceasing, In all circumstances: these are basic attitudes of life for a Christian.

To rejoice at all times means to rejoice every moment of our lives. To pray without ceasing means to pray at any time and in any situation. To give thanks in all things is to thank God for anything and everything that happens to us.

In other words, these sentiments of joy, prayer and thanksgiving should infuse our entire life, penetrate our whole being , including every cell and part of our bodies.

These three things are part of our lives. If our lives are analyzed in a 'spiritual laboratory' there are only three components - joy, prayer and thanksgiving.

This is God's will. God wants us to be joyful, prayerful and grateful. This is the merciful and almighty God's wish for us, and so to act according to God's will is the best way for us to act.

To rejoice at all times means to rejoice even in times of failure, frustration and pain. To pray without ceasing is to pray at times of work, study, meals, walking, playing and sleeping. To give thanks in all circumstances means to be grateful for our weaknesses, our country, our community, for our enemies and those we dislike, for gloomy days and times of adversity and frustration.

Today the Prophet Isaiah says, “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor” (Is 61: 1-2)

Christ has come, proclaiming joy, healing, salvation, liberation.

Even if we are poor people, what does it matter? We have heard the good news. Our hearts are broken. Of what are we afraid? Christ comes to heal us. We are captives, prisoners. We need not regret; Christ will liberate us.

For all of this, should we not rejoice, give thanks and pray to the Lord? Salvation comes not only to me but to each and every person. Because the Jubilee Year has come, the day of salvation is upon us. All creation rejoices, all people have been saved. The entire world is bathed in the ocean of God's merciful love.

This is why we should rejoice and give thanks at all times. This is the reason we should pray without ceasing.

Joy should be our normal state in life. Sadness is only an interlude. Behind every dark cloud we know there is a silver lining. Lao Tzu said, “The whirlwind will not last the morning out; the cloudburst ends before the day is done.” (3) (“The Way of Life,” Chap. 23) No matter how severe the storm and how heavy the rain, they will cease. The wind will not howl the whole day, nor the rain pour down all day. After the rainstorm the sun will shine brightly. Behind the dark clouds there will be a clear bright sky.

Living in Christ and in our Father's love, we can reach this state of mind: “Wind or rain, overcast or bright are external circumstances, Deep in my heart there is only the shining sun and the colourful sky.” (4) Because there is only the shining sun and the colourful sky, we should always be joyful, pray continuously and thank God for everything. Then external circumstances will not affect us.

You may ask, “Is this possible? You have not experienced MY tragic experiences so you encourage me in this way. If you had experienced ‘MY pain’, you might change the way you think and speak.” You are right! No one has the ability to convince another person under great distress, despair and disappointment to understand the meaning of 'always- without ceasing-in all circumstances.' We need to see witnesses who can rejoice and give thanks during times of adversity.

The Bible says John “was a man sent from God. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him” (Jn 1:6). The Gospel needs people to be 'witnesses'.

Only when a person can rejoice in great pain, give thanks in times of frustration and pray when God seems to be absent, is that person qualified to say “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.”

Only when there are such persons will others believe that what Jesus said is true, possible, believable and workable.

John the Baptist was such a witness to Jesus. We too, should bear witness to Jesus and testify to the truth of his words.

(1) 中國文化: 飄風不終朝,驟雨不終日。
(2) 風雨晦明身外事,心中只有艷陽天。
(3) 老子說:「飄風不終朝,驟雨不終日。」
(4) 「風雨晦明身外事,心中只有艷陽天」。