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 Thessalonians 5:16-22
The third Sunday of Advent is often referred to as Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday. This is a reference to the opening line of the reading from 1 Thessalonians: “Rejoice always…” It serves as a reprieve from the penitential aspect of Advent. Under more normal circumstances, it is also the Sunday when I give in and bring out the Christmas decorations.
As you can guess 2020 is not a normal year. I must confess that the Christmas decorations made their way into my home right after Thanksgiving. In all that has happened this year, I needed the joy of a Christmas tree and lights on the front of the house sooner rather than later.
Now as we are nearing the darkest part of the winter, and as the COVID-19 numbers increase every day, we need the reminder from scripture that we are called to rejoice, to pray, and to give thanks.
We also are called to hold fast to what is good.
At this moment, the good that we need to remember most is the love of our neighbor. At this moment, this love is not abstract. We need to love our neighbor through concrete actions: wearing masks, remaining physically distant, washing our hands, staying home, and avoiding gatherings (especially inside). By practicing these acts of love, more of our neighbors will be able to rejoice in the future. The end is in sight, but we need to hold fast to what is good, to love.