Today we celebrate the Third Sunday of Advent traditionally known as Gaudete Sunday. ‘Gaudete’ which means ‘rejoice’ is taken from the Latin translation of Saint Paul’s words to the Christians in Philippi (Phil. 4:4-5) stating "Rejoice in the Lord; again I say, rejoice." With these words, Saint Paul sets a joyful tone in our anticipation of the birth of Jesus and his Second Coming, emphasizing that the Lord is at hand. This is in-fact the joy of the Advent season because our Lord Jesus Christ is coming to bring joy, happiness, love and hope to the world. Happiness is an essential aspect in the life of every Christian, because it reminds us of God’s presence in our lives and brings Christ’s justice and peace to our world. So if Advent is a time of happiness and joy, and since happiness is an essential aspect in the life of a Christian, how can we achieve true Christian happiness and joy?

The call to happiness in God is centered on our journey back to Him. On the first Sunday of Advent, we talked about the three essential ways of preparing for the coming of Christ. The first being an examination of conscience - a prayerful reflection on our thoughts, words, and deeds in order to identify the sins we have committed and how we have strayed from God which we discussed last Sunday. The second is the sacrament of reconciliation/confession in which we show our contriteness by confessing our sins to receive absolution from the priest and forgiveness from God. And the third is by practicing the act of interior purification through prayer and mortification so as to renounce our sins and avoiding earthly attachments to focus more on Christ our Savior. The second will be our focus today because that is where true happiness can be found easily.

The Sacrament of Penance/Confession/reconciliation is God's gift to us so that any sin committed after Baptism can be forgiven. It is our opportunity to repent, recover the grace of friendship with God and experience true happiness and joy in God. The sacrament of Penance consists of three actions of the penitent and the priest's absolution - the penitent's acts are repentance, confession or disclosure of sins to the priest, and the intention to make reparation and do works of reparation. After our examination of conscience, we find out our faults then show true contriteness by praying the act of contrition and asking God for pardon. Then we go to confession, confess our sins, receive absolution from the priest and pardon from God. Then we make reparation for our sins by doing our penance and others works of reparation. With these steps, we feel the presence of God back in our souls, hearts and spirit and experience a special kind of happiness and joy that our sins have been forgiven us and now it is time to go on living the life of a true child of God. It is this feeling of happiness and joy that Prophet Isaiah reminds us of in our first reading today when he exclaimed "I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice." It is this same joy and happiness that Saint Paul emphasizes to the Thessalonians in our second reading today urging them to rejoice in the Lord. It is still this same happiness and joy that made Saint John the Baptist witness to Christ as we heard in the gospel reading today.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, are you ready to experience the joy and happiness of Christ this Advent season? Are you ready to repent and reconcile with God? Are you ready to welcome Christ well into your lives and homes on Christmas Day? Then let us start by experiencing God’s love and mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Penance, His healing gift to us and our best opportunity to repent, recover the grace of friendship with Him and experience true happiness and joy in Him this Christmas season. Amen!