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In his encyclical Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis issues a warning that might resonate with us as we continue our Advent journey. Caught up in consumerism, he says, it is easy for us to forget what is truly important:
‘The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.’
In the lead-up to Christmas we often get caught up in a flurry of ‘interests and concerns’. True, much of the joy of Christmas comes from giving to others, but there is so much focus on material goods and spending money that it can be difficult to remember the good news at the heart of the season. It is so easy to become distracted by the bright lights and advertising.
This Sunday is Gaudete Sunday – Gaudete means ‘Rejoice’. It’s the perfect time to recapture some of the ‘quiet joy’ that Pope Francis talks about. ‘The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus,’ he reminds us. It is this personal encounter with Jesus that we celebrate at Christmas, God becoming man, the Good News announced by John the Baptist in today’s Gospel. This is the reason for our joy – the reason for the season!