This coming weekend we celebrate Gaudete (“rejoice”) Sunday. In the second reading St. Paul pairs the call to “rejoice always” with the call to “pray without ceasing.” A true understanding of Christian prayer is the doorway into a true understanding of Christian joy. Pope Benedict XVI reminded us: “The Fathers of the Church say that prayer, properly understood, is nothing other than becoming a longing for God.” As Saint Augustine put it, “Desire is your prayer; and if your desire is without ceasing, your prayer will also be without ceasing.” Christian joy comes to us as we learn to let go of all of our God-substitutes (our idols) and direct our deep desire for love and happiness toward the one who alone can fulfill it: “in my God is the joy of my soul” (first reading); “My soul rejoices in my God” (resp. psalm). This is what it means to be made “perfectly holy” and blameless in “spirit, soul, and body”: to desire nothing but “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (second reading). At his coming, he will be clothed “like a bridegroom” and we will be clothed “like a bride” and we will “rejoice heartily in the Lord” (first reading).
For the second Sunday of Advent, the Church offers us readings that proclaim the coming of God’s glory: “Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together” (first reading). If God’s glory is the outward “irradiation” of his inner goodness, as St. John Paul II tells us, then our deepest yearning is to share in this glory, to be penetrated and permeated by it, to have God’s “glory dwelling in our land” (Psalm). Let us ponder the Christmas Mystery anew: this deepest of human desires is fulfilled in Mary! She is the “land” in which the glory of God dwells – bodily…. This is why God took on flesh: to reveal “the glory of the Lord” so that “all people shall see it together.” But if all humanity is to see God’s glory, we must be “eager to be found without spot or blemish” (second reading), for only the pure of heart can “see God.” If purity is “the glory of God in the human body” as John Paul II expressed, then it’s an utter gift. It’s not something we accomplish on our own. It’s something we open to by “acknowledging our sins” and allowing our bodies and souls to be washed clean in the waters of baptism (Gospel reading).