Deacon Tony reflects: Indeed, the Lord is near

Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.

Ph 4:4-5

These words from their Latin source give today the name Gaudete Sunday. We are halfway through Advent, and the tone of the readings has changed slightly. If the priest is minded to, he can wear rose coloured vestments, a more joyful colour than the purple reserved for most of the rest of Advent.

Our first reading is upbeat, with the prophet Zephaniah exclaiming joy and urging everyone to celebrate. Why does he want everyone to be so happy? God has repealed their sentence and has driven their enemies away. God the mighty King of Israel is in their midst, they need fear evil anymore. He will exult with joy over you He will renew you by his love, God will dance with joy for us, such is his great love for us. What an image this conjures up; God being so delighted with us that He dances with joy.

The psalm this week is taken from the prophet Isaiah and the joy continues – we are called to sing and shout for joy because great in our midst is the Holy One of Israel. As Catholics we should be singing, shouting and dancing all the time because we have in our midst the Holy One of Israel. Christ left us His permanent Presence in the Eucharist, Jesus Present at every Mass, in every tabernacle. Rejoice and again I say rejoice!

St Paul continues the joyful theme when he tells the Philippians that he desires for them to be happy. He calls for them to be tolerant and content with their lot, not to envy their brother, if they have needs then pray to God; offer God prayer and thanksgiving. How have we prayed and offered thanksgiving to God this week? Has it been an easy week to be thankful?

Normally I see the Old Testament pointing towards what happens in the New Testament, but in today’s Gospel from St Luke we have advice from John the Baptist on how we can get to see the joy which Zephaniah was prophesying. If we can share whatever we have in surplus with those who have needs, then God will rejoice. Those spare coats we have, the spare cash we have, the spare time we have, we are called to use these gifts; which after all came from God in the first place; to serve God by loving our brothers and sisters.

This is challenging, and rightly so. Prophets come to disturb. John the Baptist’s voice cries out to us from 2,000 years ago do you really need a coat that matches your outfit when your brother or your sister is cold on the street? This is why the initiative Coats4Calais (advertised in the newsletter over the past few weeks) is so valuable, the people who initiated this are answering the call of the Gospel.

Our readings allow us to pause our Advent preparations for a moment, but there is also a reminder that when Jesus comes again, He will come to judge. We all need to ask ourselves, the same question the people asked John the Baptist – “What must we do?” Everyone of us will have a different answer when we ask ourselves that question. The focus on Advent is a reminder that we need to be ready when the Lord comes again. So, our response to that original question must not be to wait until tomorrow, we are called to respond today, because tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us.

The UK seems to be going through a hard time again, with the rise of another variant of the Coronavirus. The Government have asked us to follow another set of rules and as Communities we have to review our risk assessments again to keep everyone safe who comes to church. Following the recent revelations of some in Government not following the rules, we could adopt an attitude of saying ‘they don’t stick to the rules, so why should we?’ This will not help. The rules are there to protect the vulnerable who live and work and worship among us. If we deliberately choose to break the rules as a political response, or out of anger, we do not harm the politicians; we harm the vulnerable and we harm those working so hard in the NHS to protect us.

As Christians we are called to help the vulnerable, those in need and to support others who help them. By following the rules; despite our personal or political opinions; we can live out our Christian duty of loving our neighbour.

Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)1

CCC 30, 163, 301, 736, 1829, 1832, 2015, 2362: joy
CCC 523-524, 535: John prepares the way for the Messiah
CCC 430-435: Jesus the Saviour

Please keep in your prayers

  • Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • The listening stage of the 16th Synod of Bishops which is entitled “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission” that all Catholics will take part.
  • The three families who will have their children baptised in Holy Ghost Parish this weekend.
  • Those struggling financially, that they get the help they need and that they are careful when deciding how much to spend this Christmas.

1 Catechism of the Catholic Church (