JOY, PRAYER, AND GRATITUDE

3rd Sunday of Advent        

            I have heard people say such things as: “If only I could move to another place and make a new start, then I would be happy.” “If only I could find the right man, raise good kids, have enough to retire, then I would be happy.” “If only I could change job now, earn more money, build a new house, then I would be happy.” “If only I had this… If only this happened… If only I could find that… then I would be happy.” I think this is coming from our belief that happiness and joy, meaning and fulfillment greatly depend on the external circumstances of our lives. “If only my circumstances were different, then things would be a whole lot better.”

            To people who have such “wishful thinking,” Charles Swindoll, in his book Laugh Again, has this to say: “The happiest people are hardly the richest, or the most beautiful, or even the most talented.” “Happy people do not depend on excitement and ‘fun’ supplied by externals.” “They waste no time thinking other pastures are greener; they do not yearn for yesterday or tomorrow.” “They savor the moment, glad to be alive, enjoying their work, their families, the good things around them.” “They are always grateful for the simple joys of life.”

            Today is called Gaudete Sunday – Rejoicing Sunday. Advent reminds us that our joy is in God – God is our joy. This is what today’s scriptural readings tell us. In the first reading, Isaiah says, I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul.” In the responsorial psalm, the Psalmist proclaims, “My soul rejoices in my God.” In the second reading, St. Paul commands us, “Rejoice always.” “Pray without ceasing.” “In all circumstances give thanks.” Why? “For this is the will of God for you.”

            Paul emphasizes three pieces of good advice that summarize Christian life: REJOICE, PRAY, and GIVE THANKS. Gratitude, joy, and prayer are essentially linked: The person who is filled with gratitude for everything always finds joy in every circumstance because he or she is constantly in touch with God in prayer.

            If only we can spend more time in prayer, reflecting on the things we must be grateful for and praising God for them, we will surely experience joy, which is rooted in God’s love for us. It is certain that whatever lingering affliction we suffer, whatever growing problem or trouble we face, whatever seeming calamity or tragedy happens to us, if we thank and praise God for it, we turn it into a blessing. “In all circumstances give thanks.” Let me emphasize three points about gratitude – based on the words of St. Paul in today’s second reading…

            First, gratitude is a demand from God. We are commanded to “give thanks.” Gratitude is not an option, it is an obligation. We must realize that anything that is commanded by God is also commended by God. Kapag may inutos ang Diyos sa atin na gawin, ito rin ay para sa ating kabutihan. Bakit iniuutos ng Diyos ang pagpapasalamat? Kasi nga makabubuti ito sa atin. You see, a grateful person will be a happier person, grateful person will be a healthier person, a grateful person will be holier person.

            Second, gratitude is the delight of God. We are told to give thanks “in everything.” That is really hard. If we were told to thank God in “most things” we could live with it. If we were told to thank God in “good things” we could accept it. But Paul says, “In all circumstances give thanks.” Thanksgiving is more than a feeling. We are not commanded to “feel thankful.” Thanksgiving has nothing to do with feelings. Whether things are good or things are bad, whether it is dry or rainy, whether we have money or we are broke, we are to be thankful.

            Third, gratitude is desired by God. “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” I cannot always tell you what the will of God is for your life, but in this instance I can. It is always the will of God for you to be thankful.

            Well, my dear friends, if you know the Lord Jesus Christ you do have much to be thankful for. You have everything to be thankful for. That is why it is the will of God that in every way, every day, we should have within our hearts the attitude of gratitude – able to give thanks in everything.    

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