The recent Catholic200SG Festival marked the end of the year-long Catholic200SG celebrations. It is not too late to remember that these celebrated 200 years of Catholicism in Singapore, made possible only by the work of the early missionaries. In other words, these celebrations are about joyful gratitude to our predecessors, and joyful hope for our successors.

Providentially, this Sunday is the Third Sunday of Advent, also called Gaudete Sunday, because joy is a central theme as we approach Christmas Day. We are joyful because we know that the coming of Christ into our world is an act of redemption for all creation.

Nevertheless, we must not forget that God never intended for us to be passive bystanders in His redeeming act. The Second Vatican Council declared that the Church has only one goal, which is to “carry forward the work of Christ” and that “Christ entered this world to give witness to the Truth, to rescue and not to sit in judgment, to serve and not to be served” (Gaudium et spes, 3). The work of Christ is not over yet, and we as the Church, which is the Body of Christ, must share in the work of Christ, our Head (1 Corinthians 12:27). The Church’s Catholic Social Teaching Principle of Participation, which tells us that all of us have the right and duty to take action in what determines our well-being and future, is not limited only to earthly matters: we all must participate in Christ’s redeeming act in its totality. There is no separation between the earthly and the heavenly.

How can we participate? Pope Francis taught us in his Mission Sunday message that “the Church’s evangelising mission finds outward fulfilment in the transformation of our world and in the care of creation”.

Today, we are living through challenging times. It is difficult to see the end of the pandemic crisis, and the threat of climate change continues to grow. If we have authentic conversations with people we know around us, or those we do not know on the street, we will soon notice that many are suffering and feeling hopeless. The newspapers can also tell us this.

Yet, it is precisely in this kind of time that, all the more, the world is in need of the hope and joy that the coming of Christ brings. If we, as Church, are not to be mere bystanders, we must respond to God’s invitation to participate in His work of redemption by transfiguring this suffering and disfigured world with the joy that comes from faith in the Christ who saves. Let this Advent, then, be defined by our discernment on how we, as individuals, communities and Church can do this for our suffering neighbours in Singapore.

Of course, such discernment cannot be done well if we ourselves do not have joy. So this week, let us begin by asking the Lord for the grace to rejoice. Indeed, despite being in prison, Paul tells us in this Sunday’s Second Reading, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

First published in Catholic News. Reprinted with permission.