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Gaudete– Latin for "Rejoice." The readings today focus on rejoicing in the Lord and our tradition of Christian joy. We’re told to be glad and exult with our whole hearts. The responsorial psalm tells us to be confident and unafraid. Paul instructs us to rejoice at all times.
But let’s be real. It’s hard. It’s hard to be happy all the time. To not let anxiety cripple your inner sense of peace. Or have doubt creep into those vulnerable moments and have you question God’s presence.
Just two weeks ago, in the midst of preparing this sermon, I found myself doing just that – Questioning where God was I the middle of my difficulties. Downhearted, uncertain and fearful of the future. Beyond my own personal situations, I grew increasingly upset looking at the state of the world. With global trends of discrimination, poverty, violence and so much more.
I wanted to sit down with Paul and tell him all the reasons why his charge to rejoice continuously was unrealistic. Tell him that looking at all the circumstances of the world, there are just so many reasons we can justify living without joy.
I even questioned how Paul could live a life of joy? Beating sessions, shipwrecks, imprisonment, danger everywhere he went and likely feeling the pressure of being spiritually responsible for all of the new churches.
How did someone who experienced so much adversity teach us to rejoice always?
Well, I think it’s because Paul understood that happiness is ultimately a choice. One that is built upon an awareness and acceptance of God’s presence and power operating in our lives.
If we look back at the readings for today, we are inundated with reminders of God’s presence. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst. The Lord is at hand. For among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
He is in every moment and every situation.
Not only that, but we as Christians have a sacred right to happiness. But acknowledging the proper source of this happiness is the most important thing and key to accessing it.
I, like many, made the mistake of believing that happiness was tied to my circumstances – who I was with, what I was doing, where in was in life. My circumstances determined my level of happiness.
But with God, happiness has absolutely nothing to do with circumstances. Circumstances are temporary, while our relationship and life with God is eternal. We are to lean into this perspective, master it.
And our dear fried Paul did just that. Despite the difficulties he faced, characterized as momentary light afflictions, Paul was still happy. Why? Because he focused his thoughts and feelings on God’s promise of an abundant life. In rooting his wellbeing in his eternal and invaluable relationship with God, no worldly circumstances could ever affect the internal joy experienced by living each day with God. Paul mastered his perspective and subsequently mastered what I call the rejoice choice. Choosing to rejoice always and in all circumstances. And with that comes happiness and what Paul describes as a peace that surpasses all understanding.
What could be better than that?
But like all great things, mastery of the rejoice choice requires intention. It requires a conscience decision to do so each day. Practices to shift and develop new perspective. Whether its speaking daily affirmations into your life, practicing mindfulness, cultivating a thankfulness and gratitude practice, find something that ties your happiness to a divine relationship with God.
This Gaudete Sunday and all days going forward, I challenge myself and all of you to master the rejoice choice. Choose to rejoice. Because he, God, provides us with too many reasons to be counted.
Elyse Galloway is a Maryland native, receiving bachelor degrees in anthropology and community health from Tufts University, and holds a master’s degree in public health from the Yale University. At both institutions, Elyse dedicated her time to extracurricular activities promoting community engagement and leadership development. She was a proud member of the Saint Thomas More Graduate Council and active supporter Afro-American Cultural Center at Yale, receiving the Khalid Lum Leadership Award which recognizes the efforts of a graduate student who has devoted tremendous leadership to the House and its community.
Having worked for a variety of government and non-profit entities, including the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health and Sesame Workshop, Elyse continues developing her passion for minimizing the gap between science and society through communications. Elyse aspires to transform the valuable takeaways of research into engaging deliverables, advancing progress and empowerment of individual and community level health.
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