Sunday, December 13, 2015


In the Advent calendar the third (rose colored) candle was lit at Mass today. The priest's vestments were rose instead of the Advent purple.

It was Gaudate Sunday, characterized by joy and gladness not only in preparation to celebrate the “Joy to the world” of the First Coming of Christ at Christmas but with joyful anticipation of His Second Coming. The Liturgy, the Old and New Testament readings, Psalms responses, the prayers, music, and the homily were all focused on rejoicing.

We naturally associate celebration with blessings and joyful happenings, and everything going smoothly. God is always generously blessing His children with bountiful goodness and mercy all the days of their lives. There are tons of blessings to celebrate. It is good to “come before Him with joyful singing and to enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.” In Hebrew and Jewish culture, dancing and merry-making were exuberant and noisily physical. They knew how to "exult!" And I doubt that Jesus was a stick in the mud or party-pooper in the culture of His day.

But God planned for other than happy occasions on which we should sing and dance and make merry to the accompaniment of instruments. For such times we may have to learn a new song because it may not come naturally given the circumstances. What circumstances could there possibly be that would give rise to such a need?

Listen carefully to the song of God's prophet:Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food; though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls....That's an occasion to celebrate??

Those can't be the right words to sing with joy! Were such things to happen it would be utter disaster, catastrophe, total calamity, a tragedy! How could such an adverse situation be the cause to celebrate and be accompanied by a happy dance? The music should rather be a dirge—a funeral song, a mournful lament!"

Faithful Habakkuk wrote the words of that song that occasioned his happy dance. It was just at the time when total devastation faced his nation. Enemy invaders were storming in over its borders with determination to devour and lay waste the entire land and slay the people. Though he said he trembled with distress and his lips quivered, he waited on God and trusted totally in His providence.

It was worst case scenario! Habakkuk described the violence and bloodshed that were sweeping over the land in 3:17-19. Wickedness, strife, and contention were widespread. Laws were being disregarded and justice was never upheld. The wicked surrounded the righteous breathing threats. The entire economy of that day was collapsing! He vividly described the horrible things in his book!

Not unlike conditions for God's people today? We are gripped with fear and foreboding as we wait for an unseen and unidentified enemy to stealthily attack our land. Listen to God's servant Habakkuk and learn how God wants us to face the inevitable tribulation and persecution which Jesus said would come upon the world and upon those who followed Him faithfully. How should we meet such onslaughts? It might sound upside down, but in such times of distress and suffering and hardship we should prepare to sing and dance with holy joy even when we face our worst nightmare—personal or national:

"Yet I will *exult in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds' feet, and makes me walk on my high places.

I don't understand how we can sing and dance under such dire circumstances, but I bow before the Lord God because I know He is always working all things for good. He is working out the eternal picture. His plans for His own people are “for their welfare and not for calamity to give them a future and a hope!” He has the nations and their leaders and His people who are scattered in many lands in His hands. 

In His omnipotent wisdom and loving judgment, He may even resort to use godless nations as rods of chastisement for a blessed and favored nation that forgets Him and insists on going its own wicked way. He may allow that nation to have the leadership its people chose—and which they deserve because of their sinfulness.

Whatever may befall? Today's technological scenario is different from that of Habakkuk's agricultural collapse. Ours may be an EMP strike by terrorists that would paralyze all the country's communications, transportation, and economy and take us back to the Middle Ages. Or the same thing could result from a nuclear bomb explosion or an atmospheric phenomenon from the sun, or a meteor strike. 

A yet unknown plague might wipe out large segments of the population. Black would be considered white, and white black. Justice and the court systems might collapse. Famines, earthquakes and ensuing tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, blizzards, wildfires, volcanic eruptions, or other earth-made and man-made disasters could potentially cause our personal or national demise. Yes, whatever may befall, fear not!

In Habakkuk's agricultural economic collapse, those who trusted in Lord God whirled about in joyful celebration and praise to Him despite the chaos and disintegration of all around them.

How will those of us in our modern age who trust in the Lord God respond to our potential cataclysms?  He doesn't promise to keep us from the calamities of life in this world, but to keep us through them. God's promise is just as sure now as then: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Therefore, fear not!

"Let all who take refuge in Thee be glad, let them ever sing for joy; and mayest Thou shelter them, that those who love Thy Name may *exult in Thee. For it is Thou who dost bless the righteous man, O Lord. Thou dost surround him with favor as with a shield" (Psalm 5:11, 12).
*Various versions of the Bible translate the word “exult as:
"rejoice, be glad, shout loudly, take great delight, sing a song of holy joy, sing a happy song, sing loudly, celebrate, rejoice with great happiness, engage in hilarious activity, jump about, truly find joy in, triumph in, proclaim victory, turn cartwheels of joy, whirl around in a dance, be ecstatic about."

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