“Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) Today is Gaudete Sunday, one of two Sundays in the liturgical year when the priest wears rose-colored vestments. (The other Sunday is the third Sunday of Lent.)
I look forward to Gaudete Sunday because it reminds us that our Christian faith is a joyful faith.
I am sure most of you have heard or read this, the difference between happiness and joy. With happiness, something has to happen for us to experience the bliss. There is a stimulus, an external factor. With joy, there is no need for stimulus for one to experience bliss.
Joy, Christian joy, needs no stimulus or external factor.
The Gospel this Sunday has a simple prescription from John the Baptist to make us more predisposed to joy. For those with an extra cloak and have food, share with those who have none. To the tax collector—do your jobs fairly and honestly. To the soldiers, be upright and fair in your work and be satisfied.
John’s prescription at first glance seems to say plainly: Simplify your life, live simply. True, but it is so much more. The simplicity of life is merely a means to an end, which is a deeper presence of and relationship with Christ in our life—the source of Christian joy.
Christian joy fosters a culture characterized by “thank-you-much-I-am-okay” and “I-am-okay-may-I-help-you.” Or plainly put, gratitude and satisfaction leading to sharing.
Another “slogan” from old, which I am sure you have also heard or read, is “Live simply so others may simply live.”
Last Monday I bumped into someone in the hardware store. She attended my Sunday Mass the day before, but since her husband was not able to go to the same Mass, she discussed with him the main point I raised in my homily.
My main point was, John the Baptist’s call to repentance in last Sunday’s Gospel was a call to renewal, the renewal of what is good in us. As such, part of our preparation for Christmas is to rediscover what is good and loveable in us.
I summarized my homily using the line from the World Youth Day 1995 song by Trina Belamide: “God so loved the world, he gave us his only son.”
She told me before we parted ways that it was a good reminder about such a “simple” reality in our life. I was struck by her use of the word “simple.”
Yes, it is the “simple” reality of our life: “God so loved the world, he gave us His only son.”
This is also the source and the prize, the beginning and the end; the alpha and the omega—of our Christian joy, our Christian faith and hope.
This is the singular grace of our faith: The Father gave us His only son to save us simply because He loves us. This is the inspiration of our gratitude, of a life lived with and in gratitude and satisfaction, leading to the sharing of one’s life and person.
Let me share two stories. I apologize for concealing the identities and even changing some details to help conceal the identities of these persons. I do not have the permission to write about them, but I think the lessons learned are universal and thus the stories are worth sharing.
For the past years there has been an on-again-off-again deal to purchase a company. This has been covered by the business section. Then recently, just when everybody thought it was a done deal, the deal was called off.
I found out that the story behind the calling off of the deal was, in the end, not about the money. Apparently the buyer had clearly stated that once the sale is consummated, they will bring in their top brass and even people in the lower positions and take over, thus laying off a number of old employees of the newly acquired company. Quite normal, I was told.
But this is what is “abnormal.” One of the owners of the company being bought backed out. She supposedly told her husband and children, who would benefit the most from the sale, that whether you have hundreds of millions or billions, it no longer matters. You can use only so much material wealth to enjoy.
Then she put forth her “punch line.” Can you still enjoy such wealth knowing the very people who helped you build this wealth lost their jobs?
The second story is about the speech of one of the more prominent younger businessmen in the country. I met him years ago, and from time to time our paths would cross. I have always admired his sense of values and sense of mission. In one of his speeches in the gathering of an advocacy he supports, he shared one of the leadership philosophies of his family’s patriarch.
He said their patriarch always believed that as a leader, one had to be very strong, and that leadership is partly survival of the fittest. But when you are a leader, one of your main responsibilities is to care for the weakest in the organization or community. The organization or community is only as strong as how its weakest member is cared for and empowered.
This has somehow become one of the hallmarks of their businesses. Their companies have employees who have been with them for years and have remained inspired in their work, no matter at what level, because they know their company cares for them and they also took ownership of the company’s vision.
All this came from the faith and life of the patriarch who was a survivor—since he and his siblings were orphaned relatively early—and who always cared for people, especially the weakest among his community.
These are two stories of lives lived with and in gratitude and satisfaction, leading to sharing. These stories succinctly deliver one of the main lessons from today’s readings: Our Christian joy comes from a source deeper than all the external stimuli the world has to offer.
An epilogue from the patriarch’s story: Years ago he gave up all his interests in the family’s companies and gave them to his children. He said it was time to let go and hand things over to his children for whom he worked so hard, from the beginning.
Then at an advanced age, when people normally retire and enjoy the fruits of their hard work, he sold the few assets he had left to start a new company. He started it on a dream and a vision. No one believed it could be done. Basically, it was only one member of his family—the young businessman who delivered the speech—and himself who believed in the dream and the vision.
They started the company. Had rough times. Held on to the dream and vision they believed in. Now this new company—new compared to the group—is practically on equal footing with the rest of the family’s group of companies. And this new company and the rest of the group continue drawing guidance and inspiration from each other.
Recently, I had the privilege to hear the patriarch talk about his new dream and vision. He is excited and inspired to help his elementary school, a public school in his hometown. He has a new dream and vision to make this provincial grade school world-class.
I believe he will succeed. He will do as he had done in his previous endeavors. Somehow I think the key to his success is, after building, he is ready to let go and share or even give to others the fruits of his labors.
Perhaps the deeper and more interior key to his success is this: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again, rejoice!” He lives in constant joy that comes from the Lord alone and always. I think he believes everything is from God and thus must be given not just to him, but to all whom God loves.
When we live such a life, what can we say? “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again, rejoice!”