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The third Sunday of Advent is referred to as “Gaudete” Sunday. In Latin, Gaudete is a positive command that means, “Rejoice!” We Christians are a joyful people. In fact, St. Paul tells the Thessalonians in today’s second reading, “Rejoice always!”

Now, does that mean we must be always giddy, always on an emotional high? No. But it does mean that we are basically and irrevocably an optimistic people, believers in the divine comedy – in good times and bad, in success and failure.

 I always think of Thomas Merton in this context, telling one of his novices to get rid of his long face – and meaning it as a positive command. Christians have no business moping around.

Notice how beautifully this theme balances the theme we’ve been developing the last couple of weeks – one that also belongs to the heart of Advent – the desperation of our sin and our need for salvation.

The sobering news is that we can’t save ourselves. But the overwhelmingly good news is that we have been saved through the mighty power of God, and that’s the reason why we are an essentially joyful people.