Theme: UNINTERRUPTED CHRISTIAN JOY.
By: Fr Andrew Ekpenyong at St Mary Magdalene Cath. Church, Omaha, USA.
Homily for Sunday December 12 2021
1. Joke. Two men took Uber home after being tipsy at the bar on a Saturday night. On their way back, the Uber driver wanted to have an idea how drunk the men were. At a traffic junction, she signaled to turn and then said to the two passengers: “Hey guys, please check for me: is my turning signal light working?”. The more drunk passenger promptly stuck his head out of the window, noticed the blinking turning light and said: “yes, no, yes, no, yes….” Today is called Gaudete Sunday because of the entrance antiphon of today’s Mass, taken from the 2nd reading (Phil 4:4-7): “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.” Phil 4:4. In Latin: “Gaudete in Domino semper, iterum dico, gaudete!” Our starting joke is to emphasize what it means to “rejoice in the Lord always”. Let’s call it “uninterrupted Christian joy”. As long as there is power supply and other things are in place, the signalling light works by blinking as it should. The power supply to the bulb is like internal Christian joy: we want uninterrupted power supply (UPS), we want uninterrupted Christian joy. The blinking is like our external mood, whereby we weep with those who weep, and celebrate with those who celebrate, as Scripture elsewhere teaches (Rom 12:15).
2. Uninterrupted Christian Joy. Sisters and brothers, from our human experience, we become joyful in the presence of our loved ones. If our loved ones are far away, we become joyful in knowing that they are doing well as we communicate with them. When a visit or reunion is planned, we become joyful in anticipation of meeting them. Likewise, Christian joy, is joy in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, the one we love most, whose love makes us love others best. To rejoice in the Lord always, to have uninterrupted Christian joy means that we remain connected with our Lord through prayer, we enjoy His presence in the Word of God, in the Eucharist and other Sacraments, we enjoy our Lord’s presence in the lives of others around us, we notice His presence in all our neighbours and react accordingly, in charity. So what can interrupt this Christian joy, this spiritual joy, this internal disposition to weep with those who weep while hopeful in God’s ultimate salvation? Brothers and sisters, you and I know the answer from our experience. Sin. Sin interrupts Christian joy. Serious sin cuts out the power supply. Commenting on this part of today’s 2nd reading, on how to rejoice in the Lord always, St Thomas Aquinas wrote: “This happens when it is not interrupted by sin, for then it is continuous.” (Comm. Epist. Phil.). Today’s 1st reading (Zep 3:14-18a) and the Gospel reading (Lk 3:10-18) give us practical ways of getting reconnected if our Christian joy is interrupted by sin and us practical ways of growing in Christian joy.
3. Growing in Christian Joy. The first reading reminds us of one of the reasons for our joy, namely, God has pardoned our sins: “The Lord has removed the judgment against you.” His presence in our midst renews us in His love, leading to our growing joy. And like the people in the time of John the Baptist, we know that we have sometimes interrupted our joy through sin. What should we do? Same answer as John the Baptist gave in today’s Gospel reading. Repentance. Charity. To tax collectors, soldiers and to all of us according to our occupations, John the Baptist says: stop extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages. Justice and charity keep us joyful. In other words, we cannot be joyful in the Lord always without repentance and daily growth in holiness. You and I also have the privilege of becoming even more joyful when we share with those in need. And when we ourselves are in need, what should we do? It is still an opportunity for growth in joy, if we do what we heard in the 2nd reading: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. ” Amen.