Gaudete Sunday: Let us give life to hope


By Barb Arland-Fye

Pope Francis celebrates his 87th birthday Dec. 17, which coincides with Gaudete Sunday, an especially hopeful time in this reflective season of Advent. The time is drawing nearer to Christmas. We greet the season anticipating the second coming of Christ and remembering his birth, this hope incarnate, while attuning ourselves to God’s presence in our life today. Jesus entered humanity as a vulnerable infant in a perilous time in Middle East history, giving life to humanity’s hope. 

More than 2,000 years later, we, too, are living in perilous times fraught with natural and human-made disasters, including war, political division, life-disrupting floods, fires, tornados, hurricanes and earthquakes, and dehumanizing behavior that compounds physical and mental illnesses. We, the followers of Christ, must give life to hope in our world, using our God-given talents, skills and treasures.

Let us celebrate the birthday of Pope Francis by following his example of giving life to hope — serving a meal to the hungry, stocking food pantries, by visiting people in the hospital, the nursing home, or who are homebound. Let us visit or send letters to people in prison or jail, offer a listening ear to people who are lonely, practice patience toward people who test our patience. Send a handwritten note or call a family or individual who has recently lost a loved one to let them know that you are thinking about and praying for them. Offer to babysit for a couple who may be feeling overwhelmed or offer to spend time with a person with dementia or cognitive issues so that person’s loved one can take some time to relax. We give life to hope for people who may be feeling hopeless, especially this time of year.


Pope Francis demonstrates humility, as Jesus did, by washing the feet of the incarcerated. That may not be practical or possible for us. However, we can practice humility in other concrete ways, such as listening to rather than jumping into the opinion of another person expressing a viewpoint different from our viewpoint or refraining from a biting remark toward someone who has offended us. We give life to hope by relinquishing a thirst to be Number One.

Scripture reading, daily prayer and participating in the liturgy strengthen our ability to give life to hope. The readings from Isaiah during Advent and the psalms and canticles in the Liturgy of the Hours give light to hope this season. Isaiah 35:1-10 provides a beautiful example: 

“The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom.

 They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; They will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. … Here is your God, he comes with vindication; With divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; Then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.”

In his Gospel reflection for Dec. 11, Bishop Robert Barron offers this advice for hope, inspired by Luke’s recounting of men of faith who lowered a man down from the rooftop where Jesus was preaching so that he could heal the man who was paralyzed. “Your job as a believer, is to bring others to Christ. How? A word of encouragement, a challenge, an explanation, a word of forgiveness, a note, a phone call,” Bishop Barron said. Let us give life to hope following this advice.

“Although there are many reasons to be discouraged, amid many prophets of destruction and condemnation, and so many negative and despairing voices, may you be a positive force, salt and light for this society,” Pope Francis said. “Like the engine of a train, may you be the driving force leading all towards their destination. May you be sowers of hope, builders of bridges and agents of dialogue and harmony” (Apostolic Journey, April 29, 2017).

May we all celebrate Gaudete Sunday and Pope Francis’ birthday by giving life to hope in a world that longs to see its light.

Barb Arland-Fye, Editor

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