Tell someone to “just be happy,” and you often get a cheesy, fake grin in return. The Third Sunday of Advent commands us, “Rejoice!” Unless we go deeper into why we should “rejoice always,” we just might respond with a saccharine simper. The Advent and Christmas seasons are sentimental enough.
To have a more thoughtful, less temperamental faith, we should ask, why rejoice? Today’s responsorial psalm taken from the Magnificat in Luke’s Gospel gives us a reason. Mary rejoices because God has looked upon his lowly servant and shown mercy. God has filled the hungry and sent the rich away empty.
Mary’s joy doesn’t depend on what God will do for her in the future or even on what God is doing for her now. Her joy is grounded on what God has done in the past for those in need. When Mary remembers these things, she can trust that God will do those things again. Therefore, she can live in constant joy no matter what.
John the Baptist’s reason to baptize and Mary’s cause for rejoicing both come from their faith in a God who has always been faithful. Like them, we live in a time between what God has done and what our faith tells us God will do again. Advent faith calls us to remember God’s promises. In that memory, we can always rejoice.