Gaudete! Rejoice! Our Wait is Nearing an End - The Third Sunday of Advent

Please take a moment to enjoy this week's reflection from Fr. Michal Wojciak, S.A.C.

The third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday from the Latin word meaning "rejoice". We are rejoicing because our wait is drawing to an end. The color used during Mass is usually rose. Purple may also be used. On the advent wreath, we light the rose-colored candle, a symbol of rejoicing.

Advent is not the same as Lent. Even though we use the color purple on three of the four Sundays in Advent, this color does not mean sadness or grief, but rather expectation, which is joyful. There is much excitement because soon there will be something great happening, for example, when a significant event is approaching in our personal lives which will change our lives for the better.

The Liturgy of the Word for the third Sunday of Advent is very rich in the context of showing what we call joy. So, what is this joy? In the text from the Prophet Zephaniah, the closeness of the Lord is emphasized two times. It is a double assurance that God is always near and will not give up this closeness. Man may give it up but God can never give it up. Of course, the price of giving up God's love will, unfortunately, be eternal separation from the Creator, which we call hell. The reward - eternally being in God's company in Heaven. Zephaniah announces the reversal of the fate that fell on the Chosen People as a result of their unfaithfulness and rejection of the covenant when he proclaims, "Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,  O daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has removed the judgment against you, He has turned away your enemies." Therefore, joy is the closeness of the Lord and His Mercy, which gives us an inner sense of happiness, which is impossible to break. In the context of Advent, it is worth asking ourselves about our connection with these words of the Prophet. Do I want to return to the Lord and do I believe that He is really waiting for my return? The question may seem obvious because it is clear that I do want to be with the Lord. But do I want it seriously and forever? With God, you cannot trade and you cannot dictate to Him what He can and cannot do in your life. We sometimes think we are in charge as when we selectively follow the Ten Commandments because we think we know better. When we find ourselves doing this and we realize what we are doing, our very first step is to go back to the Lord and accept his direction which He left us in the Commandments and Church teachings. The second step is to take action, Where? In the sacramental confession. Jesus is waiting for us in the person of the priest who is there for us in the confessional. Without this action, it is impossible for us to move on. Many people confess their sins before Christmas or Easter. Some confess more frequently, maybe once a month or once a week. I encourage more frequent confession. The more frequently we confess our sins, the better prepared we are to experience the return of the Lord or our personal return to Him and therefore, the greater our joy.
Some observations and tips for confession:

- Remember that a mortal sin prevents the reception of Communion. A mortal sin is committed when we knowingly and willingly break an important matter such as one or more of the Ten Commandments.
- A priest is human and therefore capable of committing sin, but only the priest can forgive your sins through the power of Christ.
- When we commit sins, our sense of shame may prevent us from going to confession. There is a need for us to move beyond our shame and go to confession.
- Sometimes we may be embarrassed about going to confession because we are concerned about what the priest will think of us. Please remember confession is about your salvation, not about the priest. The priest's primary concern in confession is your salvation.
- If you are ashamed to go to confession to a priest who knows you, consider going to confession in a large city where you can find churches that offer confessions during the entire day.
- Prepare for your confession by taking time for a good and thorough examination of your conscience.
- Say your penance immediately after your confession. If that is not possible, and the delay in saying your penance causes you to forget the penance, say a part of the Rosary as your penance.
- Before confession, read the parable of the prodigal son in the Gospel according to Saint Luke. It shows the sense of God's love.
- Avoid insincerity in your confession of your sins as it nullifies your confession and will result in the sacrilegious reception of Holy Communion after it. Also, you will not receive the grace due from the proper reception of the sacrament.
- Finally, plan to go to confession early in Advent. By doing so, you will free yourself of some of the tension associated with the Christmas season.

All of the above is so important in helping us experience the joy associated with the celebration of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ's birthday. After all, He is the reason for our joy and rejoicing.