Over the last Sundays, the liturgy has underlined what it means to be in a vigilant attitude and what concretely involves preparing the way of the Lord. On this third Sunday of Advent, called the "Sunday of Joy", the liturgy invites us to grasp the spirit with which all of this takes place, that is – joy.
Saint Paul invites us to prepare for the coming of the Lord by assuming three attitudes: constant joy, persevering prayer and continual thanksgiving.
The first attitude is constant joy: "Always be happy" (1 Thess 5:16), the St Paul exhorts us. That is to say always remain in joy, even when things do not go according to our desires. Anxieties, difficulties and sufferings permeate our lives, and so many times the reality around us seems to be inhospitable and arid, like the desert in which the voice of John the Baptist resounded, as the Gospel of today recalls (cf. , 23). But the words of the Baptist reveal that our joy rests on the certainty that this desert is inhabited: "Among you there is one whom you do not know".
This is Jesus, the envoy of the Father who comes, as Isaiah underlines, "to bring the good news to the poor, to bind the wounds of broken hearts, to proclaim the freedom of slaves, the release of prisoners, to promulgate the year of grace of the Lord "(61,1-2). These words, which Jesus will make his own in the discourse of the synagogue of Nazareth (cf. Lk 4: 16-19), clarify that His mission in the world consists in the liberation from the personal and social sin and slavery that it produces. He came to earth to give back to men the dignity and freedom of the children of God, which only He can communicate.
The joy that characterizes the expectation of the Messiah is based on persevering prayer: this is the second attitude. "Pray unceasingly" (1 Thessalonians 5:17), says Paul. Through prayer we can enter into a stable relationship with God, who is the source of true joy. The joy of the Christian comes from faith and from the encounter with Jesus Christ, the reason for our happiness. The more we are rooted in Christ, the more we find inner serenity, even in the midst of everyday contradictions.
That is why the Christian, having met Jesus, cannot be a prophet of misfortune, but a witness and a herald of joy. A joy to share with others; a contagious joy that makes life's journey less tiring.
The third attitude indicated by Paul is the continuous yield of graces, that is, the grateful love of God. He is indeed very generous with us, and we are invited to always recognize His gifts, His merciful love, His patience. and goodness, thus living in an endless state of thanksgiving.
Joy, prayer and gratitude are three attitudes that prepare us to live Christmas in an authentic way. In this last part of Advent, we entrust ourselves to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary. She is "the cause of our joy", not only because she is the Mother of Jesus, but because she continually leads us to Him.