Homily for Third Sunday of Advent – Gaudete Sunday

Dear friends. Available in the Cathedral this weekend is a ‘Family Prayer Card’ to mark moments of prayer in the family this Christmas. The idea behind this prayer card is to encourage and invite prayer this Christmas in the family and in the home which is traditionally known as the ‘domestic church’. We encourage parents in particular to use this card with their children, to involve them and join with them in prayer this Christmas 2020.

The main feature of the prayer card is a meditation on the crib that is pictured here and that is found in St Aidan’s Cathedral. There is a prayerful reflection on the manger, the donkey, the cow, the star, the shepherds, the kings, the angel, Joseph, Mary and of course the infant Jesus. Each of these figures are unique and each remind us of something important about the meaning of Christmas and all of humanity that Christ came to save.

There are also prayers for Christmas Eve night, Christmas Day, a prayer before Christmas dinner, for the new year and for the whole world. Included also is a family hymn and a ‘Five Point Plan’ to help the message of Christmas make a real difference this year.

Please do take a prayer card and use it. Don’t be embarrassed by the idea of praying with family members. Take the initiative and be a leader. Family prayer has declined in recent years which has weakened the institution of the family. There was a time when the family rosary fulfilled this task. But when this practice declined, nothing took its place. This prayer idea is an effort to strengthen family life by uniting families around the crib. Just as all the characters at the crib were gathered around Christ, so too can all families be united in prayer around the infant Saviour who brings together in peace and love all who believe in him.

Prayer is also a source of joy, as we see from the life of Jesus. St Luke tells us that on one occasion, Jesus was filled with joy after prayer but that joy also moved him to praise the Father in return: “At that time, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, Jesus exclaimed, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth’” (Luke 10:21). We are called to be witnesses to joy, despite trials and challenges. God wants us to be happy and to be joyful.

Christianity is a religion of joy. As Christmas approaches, we may well experience feelings of melancholy or sadness for many legitimate reasons. But let us also have the courage to rejoice in the Lord – in his presence, in his gift of salvation, in our praise of him, in his ways, in our hope of heaven and even in his cross. God is the source of our joy for he is the God of joy. May we experience the joy of God and the God of joy through our moments of prayer this Christmas.