The Good Word for Sunday December 13th ~ For the complete readings click here.
It’s pink candle time! The third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete Sunday.
Gaudete means “Rejoice!” in Latin. We are over halfway to Christmas and so we take a little break from our quiet preparing for Jesus’ coming at Christmas and rejoice because Jesus is coming at Christmas.
Personally, this Sunday has taken me by surprise. I don’t know about you, but all-of-a-sudden, it’s the third week of Advent. All-of-a-sudden, it is almost Christmas. I think this Sunday is a great opportunity to snap us out of whatever rut we may have fallen into in Advent. The pink candle and the readings at Mass demand us to ask ourselves one simple question, “Am I joyful?”
Well, are you? Hare you happy right now?
Or are you, like most of America it seems, stressed, worried, and anxious? Do you feel overwhelmed or so busy you can’t imagine how everything is going to get done?
Are you happy?
Since we are about to spend an entire Sunday rejoicing, I thought I would find out a little more about what makes people happy. Several large, scientific studies on happiness have been in the works the last couple years and they found two things I think are tremendously interesting.
- Happiness is a choice. We decide when we are happy. We make a decision about what will make us happy, sort of a target happiness, and then when we approach it we are happy and when we are far away, we are stressed or sad. That is why the littlest things can overwhelm us with joy and the biggest, most wonderful moments can miss the mark.
- Because happiness is a choice, we can reset what makes us happy, and the way to reset what makes us happy is gratitude. According to a Harvard study, backed up by a U Cal Berkley study, it isn’t happy people who are grateful; it is grateful people who are happy. Gratitude resets our happiness target to a place where we already are. We come to recognize that we have exactly what we need to be happy. Grateful people are healthier, happier, and have better relationships. Turns out, gratitude is good for your marriage!
When we go to God with gratitude or thanksgiving, as the second reading says, we will rejoice. The Harvard study gave a couple ways that people in the study successfully cultivated gratitude. Make this the week, in the midst of whatever craziness is coming your way, to try one of these gratitude behaviors out. You will be happy you did.
Write a thank you note: Your mom was right. Writing a thank you note can improve a relationship and bring you greater happiness. Send it, deliver it yourself, or even write yourself one! Write one note sometime before Christmas.
Thank someone mentally: Can’t do the note thing? Mentally thank someone. If you recognize someone does something kind or generous for you, mentally thank them.
Keep a gratitude journal: Write one to 5 thinks that you are grateful for each day. Or make a habit of writing in your gratitude each Sunday and then bring those grateful thoughts to Mass and pray through them.
Count your blessings: Same thing as the journal, but without the writing. Doing this each night before bed is a great practice.
Pray: Thank God specifically for the things you are grateful for. The Harvard study specifically mentioned this as a powerful way to cultivate gratitude.
Meditate: Take time in silence to listen for the things that come to mind. Then turn those distractions into prayers or thoughts of gratitude. Use a mantra like, “Thank you, Jesus” to focus your silent time.