“Brothers and sisters: rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again, rejoice.”
St. Paul commands this in the Second Reading. The word for rejoice in Latin is gaudete, so quite naturally this Sunday is called Gaudete Sunday.
Why all this exultation? Are we finally getting a break from the somberness of Advent? Yes, but there is more to it than that.
Remember that Advent is like a retreat for the worldwide Church. In this upcoming third week we will pray about our lives in the context of the great beauty God has put in us and around us.
Can you think this way?
One line in the First Reading puts it in dramatic terms. Zephaniah says that the Lord “will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.”
Because of you! Have you ever in your life thought that God might be singing because of you? Have you ever let your image of God expand that far? Have you ever let God be one who sings you into existence, in the most profound sense of the word?
In one of the books of Narnia by CS Lewis, the children are taken back to the very moment of creation. They hear the voice of Aslan (the Christ figure) singing into the wilderness. When the voice goes high, birds, clouds, blue sky appear. At a certain lengthy turn of melody the mountains raise their heads laboriously. A low hum vibrates forth the depths of seas. Creation seems to be made out of melody.
Maybe it is.
Scientists still contend about it, however. What is the physical universe composed of, particles or waves? (I think that is the choice they give us.) Einstein and many others tried to reconcile these, but no luck.
If I could come even close to describing what is called “string theory,” we might have a choice theory about the universe’s makeup. Maybe you have seen TV shows about string theory on PBS or elsewhere, a model that some scholars actually do believe unites the two hypotheses. Such “strings” act a lot like sound does. Like the vibrations that come forth from a violin string.
Instead of saying that particles or waves or uncertainty or whatever else are the basis of matter and force-fields, and so on, these scientists instead postulate string-like particles: infinitesimal, ever changing, wriggling thingumabobs. By their dancing shapes these string circles generate (or constitute, or become, or whatever is the right way to say it) everything that is.
How about this for a possibility: God’s gladness sings out joyfully at every instant, and his song is the earth, the galaxies, the people and plants and chemicals and soaring hawks and encircling planets, droplets of dew and heavy black holes, youthful beauties, ancient wisdoms, and everything else that exists.
In other words, we are God’s song.
Apply this, please, to Sunday’s Gospel.
There people in long rows gather to be baptized in expectation of the Savior who is to come. Each segment (the crowd, the tax collectors, the soldiers) ask John the Baptist the exact same question: “Teacher, what should we do?”
“Let your life sing,” he answers.
Let it sing.
Let your life be what it is: God’s joyous, interleaved and always consonant melody, sounding outwards in deepest joy. Share your cloak and your food, collect only what is owed, do not extort.
Do these things and you will be sounding the true melody of your life!