This Guadete or Joyful 3rd Sunday of Advent we are left pondering the etymology of the word Joy! Merriam-Webster defines joy with both a noun and verb. N. the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires. V. to experience great pleasure or delight. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/joy).
One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is joy. According to the catechism of the Catholic Church 2nd edition & reference to Paul’s letter to the Galatians joy has a profound meaning. “1832 The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: “charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity” (Gal. 5:22-23).
Joy is that disposition that reminds us of the coming birth of a child. Joy is that moment where we see a relative or long lost friend after a long time. Joy is when we make amends for a wrong we have done to others or to God and have that joyful spirit of our Lord’s forgiveness in receiving a solution in the sacrament of reconciliation. Joy is that moment of giving of ourselves or material possessions to see the gratitude on someone’s face where we experience great pleasure or delight.
For the prophet Isaiah (35) joy is described as follows where “the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing. Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.”
According to St. Augustine, joy can be as simple as the eternal Word (Son of the Father) making sense of those voices from those such as John the Baptist who have prepared the way for Jesus.
From a sermon by Saint Augustine, bishop
(Sermo 293,3: PI, 1328-1329)
The Voice is John, the Word is Christ
John is the voice, but the Lord is the Word who was in the beginning. John is the voice that lasts for a time; from the beginning Christ is the Word who lives for ever.
Take away the word, the meaning, and what is the voice? Where there is no understanding, there is only a meaningless sound. The voice without the word strikes the ear but does not build up the heart.
However, let us observe what happens when we first seek to build up our hearts. When I think about what I am going to say, the word or message is already in my heart. When I want to speak to you, I look for a way to share with your heart what is already in mine.
In my search for a way to let this message reach you, so that the word already in my heart may find a place also in yours, I use my voice to speak to you. The sound of my voice brings the meaning of the word to you and then passes away. The word which the sound has brought to you is now in your heart, and yet it is still also in mine.
When the word has been conveyed to you, does not the sound seem to say: The word ought to grow, and I should diminish? The sound of the voice has made itself heard in the service of the word, and has gone away, as though it were saying: My joy is complete. Let us hold on to the word; we must not lose the word conceived inwardly in our hearts.
Do you need proof that the voice passes away but the divine Word remains? Where is John’s baptism today? It served its purpose, and it went away. Now it is Christ’s baptism that we celebrate. It is in Christ that we all believe; we hope for salvation in him. This is the message the voice cried out.
Because it is hard to distinguish word from voice, even John himself was thought to be the Christ. The voice was thought to be the word. But the voice acknowledged what it was, anxious not to give offense to the word. I am not the Christ, he said, nor Elijah, nor the prophet. And the question came: Who are you, then? He replied: I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way for the Lord.
The voice of one crying in the wilderness is the voice of one breaking the silence. Prepare the way for the Lord, he says, as though he were saying: “I speak out in order to lead him into your hearts, but he does not choose to come where I lead him unless you prepare the way for him.”
To prepare the way means to pray well; it means thinking humbly of oneself. We should take our lesson from John the Baptist. He is thought to be the Christ; he declares he is not what they think. He does not take advantage of their mistake to further his own glory.
If he had said, “I am the Christ,” you can imagine how readily he would have been believed, since they believed he was the Christ even before he spoke. But he did not say it; he acknowledged what he was. He pointed out clearly who he was; he humbled himself.
He saw where his salvation lay. He understood that he was a lamp, and his fear was that it might be blown out by the wind of pride.
This week, let us rejoice in the Lord for He is to come. Just as the magi followed the star and rejoiced at their finding and the shepherds came from the field to see His radiant incarnation, we are joyful.
As the popular kid friendly Christian song I’ve Got the Joy by composer George William Cooke indicates, will we have that joy, joy, joy down in our heart because we’ve got the love of Jesus to stay?