Today is Gaudete Sunday, which means rejoice. We are rejoicing today. I am sure you have heard before, but the early church fathers spoke of three Advents. The first Advent was Jesus coming to us in the flesh, which happened 2,000 years ago. The second Advent is waiting for him to come to us now in the present moment. The third Advent is when he will come again at the end of time. What I would like to focus on is the Advent at the end of time.
There is a movie (since we are here in a movie theatre) that came out a few years ago called “The Bucket List,” and it stars Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.
The basic story of the bucket list is that the two of them had terminal cancer, and they ended up in the same room together. They were both dying. Morgan Freeman starts coming up with a bucket list filled with his own ideas. He lists things that he wants to do before he dies.
When Jack Nicholson discovers this, he starts adding his own things to this bucket list that are a little bit wilder like skydiving, getting tattoos and things like that. They decide that they are going to do the bucket list together. They are going to do all these things they want to do before the end of their life.
There is a scene where they go to Egypt and see the pyramids. They can cross off the bucket list seeing the pyramids. Jack Nicholson says, “We can cross two off because we are seeing something magnificent too.”
They begin talking, and Morgan Freeman has all of these classic lines that he says. He says, “The ancient Egyptians believed that when you got to the afterlife – before you can go to heaven – there would be two questions that would be asked of you.” These are the two questions: Have you found joy in your life?
So then he looks at Jack Nicholson and says, “Have you?” I want you for a second to think about that. Have you found joy in your life? He lets him think about that for a moment, and then he says, “The second question is did you bring joy to others? Did you bring joy to others?” You observe Jack Nicholson get really uncomfortable with that one because he is not a very joyful person in the movie.
I think those are really very good questions to ask ourselves this season of Advent. Have we discovered joy in our lives, and do we bring joy to other people? I might ask you to focus on this the rest of this Advent season: discovering joy and bringing joy to others.
The first reading talks about the end of life when we all come together again. It says, “Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.” That is an image for us of heaven: a place of eternal joy.
This Advent is a time for us to prepare to experience joy ourselves and to become joy for others. Have you experienced joy? Have you brought joy to others?