Dear friends in Christ,
There is a feeling of joy in the air. As I drove around the streets of Elizabethtown this past week I saw decors, Christmas trees and lights and other exciting signs of the holidays. Essentially for us Catholics, these are signs that anticipate the joy of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, at the same time we experience darkness daily- the days are getting shorter. Reports of evil acts in our world have not diminished. In a world of darkness and sin, in the anxiety and frustration of waiting, in the tragedy and setbacks of day to day living, lights of joy and hope shine through. John the Baptist finds himself in this situation of darkness, even when the Light of the world was around. He is imprisoned for preparing the people of Israel for the coming of the Messiah. In the darkness of his imprisonment and looming death, he expresses a sense of anxiety and uncertainty about the fulfillment of the promise of the coming of the light and joy of the world; consequently, he sends his disciples to ask Jesus if he is the expected savior of the world: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”
Haven't we been in the shoes of John the Baptist at some point in our lives? We all have at one time or another failed to see glints of light in our hours of darkness. We have lived through moments of pains and sorrows, and phases of doubts and uncertainties in our faith journey. For some of us, our financial, family and faith expectations have gone south lately, and have wondered if God is with us, or if he is what he says he is or not. Today, the liturgy points us in the direction of hope and anticipation of joy in the midst of the penitential Advent season. On Gaudete (rejoice) Sunday, we are taking a breather from the restraints of the Advent season to allow us have a joyful foretaste of what we have been awaiting painfully, the birth of joy.
As we go through our dark moments in life, let us take a look at the beautiful lights around us and draw some hope and joy. True Joy's birth is just around the corner. The ultimate Light we await is near. The works of Christ are indication that He is the one we painfully but joyfully await.
Can you find time in the few days left before Christmas to listen in prayers, meditate on the Scriptures? Can you see the lights that illumine our homes and streets against the darkness in the background as means of preparing for the coming nativity of Jesus Christ?
In Joyful Waiting,
Fr. Bernard Oniwe, OP