TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Anticipate with Joy

On this third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday), we are reminded of the joy the world has experienced at the birth of Jesus, as well as the joy of the faithful who have reached the midpoint of Advent.

In the advent wreath, we light a pink candle reminding us to reflect on the first half of the season and to look ahead to the remaining days, for the birth of the Christ-child.

We are blest in Australia to celebrate Christmas at this time of the year, our summer, and not in the winter of the Northern Hemisphere. We gather for end-of-year Christmas parties, as a way of marking the end of another year, but also to say thanks to the many we have worked or shared experiences with. These parties are an expression of our gratitude to each other. I note that this year people are really enjoying themselves, after the interlude of not being able to come together due to COVID.

I have just come home from spending the evening at Lake Mac Carols at Speers Point Park. There were thousands there, mostly in extended family groups on rugs and chairs. As far as the eye could see, there were people everywhere, just being with each other and celebrating Christmas. I was amazed to see so many children and babies, along with groups of young people enjoying each other’s company. People joined in the singing of carols, and in holding up candles as the light began to fade.

During the past week, a number of people, from the diocesan community, gathered to say thanks and pay tribute to the Director of Schools, Gerard Mowbray. He is moving onto the next phase of his life and the many words spoken and videos played were testament to his 46 years of service to Catholic Education in our diocese. It was so good to be in a filled Cathedral with faith-filled people along with good worship, messages, and music. I hope that is what your parish communities feel like for Christmas.

On each of the four Sundays preceding Christmas, we light an Advent candle for hope, love, joy, and peace. These are the virtues that entered the world with the birth of Jesus. I wonder how many people, who are busily shopping and preparing for Christmas, take time to slow down enough to remember the reason for the season.

Allen and I are preparing to join our family on the Gold Coast over Christmas. I am mindful that this is a great blessing for us, because others do not have the same connection to either their immediate families or to their extended families. There are many who live in Australia and who are separated, by significant distances, from their family and friends. This year some will be able to travel to their country of origin and reconnect with their loved ones. We pray for their safe travels and return.

In preparing for Christmas, our readings remind us to look beyond ourselves to those who may be struggling. Around our workplace we have a variety of collections taking place for children and carers in out of home care, for the seafarers and for those who are not able to source enough food to enjoy the Christmas season. Our staff are very generous in thinking of others. I hope they are able to make the connection between this generous spirit of giving and the faith aspect of this gift-giving.

Our psalm (145) for this Sunday reminds us of our giving:

Response – Lord, come and save us.

It is the Lord who keeps faith for ever,
who is just to those who are oppressed.
It is he who gives bread to the hungry,
the Lord, who sets prisoners free. (R.)

It is the Lord who gives sight to the blind,
who raises up those who are bowed down,
the Lord, who protects the stranger
and upholds the widow and orphan. (R.)

It is the Lord who loves the just
but thwarts the path of the wicked.
The Lord will reign for ever,
Zion’s God, from age to age. (R.)

We are the prophets of our time, preparing the way for the Lord, as John the Baptist did. Those who are doubting or ignoring their call, need to daily see our witness, in both the small and big things.

I pray that during the remaining time of Advent, as each of the weekly candles are lit for hope, love, joy and peace, that this is how people will experience us as people of faith.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.