THE 3rd Sunday of Advent is usually dubbed as Gaudete Sunday (Rejoice Sunday) because the Entrance Antiphon of the Mass for that day starts with the joyful greeting, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.” (Phil 4,4-5)

We are clearly encouraged to be happy as the birth of Christ is now fast approaching. But we have to know what this true Christian joy is. It simply is not a cheap and shallow one, the effect of feasting and bright and colorful decors with music and caroling all around. Rather, it should be the effect of a clean heart that gives the most appropriate welcome to Christ.

Thus, in the gospel of the Mass, we are somehow reminded of the need for repentance, an act of general spiritual and moral cleaning, so Christ would be most happy to enter into our lives.

The gospel is about John the Baptist, the precursor of Christ, who when asked by the Jews who he was, clearly said, “I am, as Isaiah prophesied, a voice that cries in the wilderness: Make a straight way for the Lord.” (Jn 1,23) That, though not in so many words, means that John the Baptist is appealing for repentance from everyone, an appeal that given the temper of the times, can be described as a “cry in the wilderness.”

Repentance should not be difficult thing to do. All we need to do is just to say as sincerely as possible that we are sorry for our sins. Better yet, we go to confession, the sacrament that clearly gives us the divine absolution for our sins.

And even if at the back of our mind we somehow know that we would still fall into sin sooner or later, we should not be hindered in expressing repentance as often as necessary, since God always forgives. He always understands and is compassionate and merciful. Of course, on our part, we should try our best not abuse the goodness of God.

In this regard, we also should train ourselves not to stay long in keeping some negative feelings of heaviness of heart, of guilt and shame because of our sin. As long as we have asked for forgiveness properly, we have every reason to feel light and happy, focused on doing a lot of good.

Thus, it is important that we also keep our emotions and passions in check, because they have the notorious tendency to dominate us in their erratic ways. We should learn to show our joy that radiates from a clean heart, a heart reconciled with God.

We have to understand that only when we are truly happy can we do a lot of good things. That’s when we can truly capture the mind and heart of Christ who, despite the passion and death that he had to go through, would lead us to the happy victory of his resurrection.

As we commemorate the birth of Christ our Redeemer this Christmas, let us resolve to always live a happy life, knowing perfectly well where that happiness should spring and what it involves.

Let us also spread this Good News of the true Christian joy as widely as possible so we can lead many to the true source of happiness, taking them away from the paths of fake and bogus forms of joy.