Msgr. Droll’s Homily FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT December 1, 2013
Wake up! That’s what Paul wrote to the Romans. Wake up! Our salvation is nearer now. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.Christ fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah; He has become the center of our universe—the highest mountain among many mountains. He brings peace.
So with the psalmist we sing: I rejoice to go up to the mountain, the temple of the Lord!
Advent has often been called a time of “joyful expectation.” It’s the kind of joyful expectation that a pregnant couple has when expecting a baby. They are fulfilled with anticipation; they work to prepare for the child. During Advent, we joyfully prepare to meet the Lord Jesus—in the celebration of his birthday at Christmas, in Holy Communion in the Mass, in the people we encounter, and at the end of time, when Christ returns again in glory. We rejoice and we prepare.
I would like to turn to Pope Francis to help us understand how to do this. Maybe you read in Friday’s Midland Reporter-Telegram the article “Pope Francis issues Mission Statement for Papacy.” The headline is not accurate; it’s not a mission statement just for himself. It is a mission statement for the church at every level. It is a vision for all of us.
His document is called “The Joy of the Gospel.” The whole introduction is about joy; so it fits in well with Advent.
What does Pope Francis say about joy? He says that joy fills the whole heart and life of the person who meets Jesus. People who have encountered Christ are freed from sin, sadness, emptiness and isolation. This fills us with joy and it needs to be communicated with others.
The big risk for people in the world today, believers and unbelievers alike—is to fall into the trap of consumerism, of selfishness and therefore isolation. The antidote—for believers and unbelievers—is to renew the personal encounter with Jesus Christ. The invitation is for all of us and “no one is excluded from the joy of the Lord.”
This is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have been fooled a thousand ways; I escaped from your love. But here I am again to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Rescue me again, Lord. Take me once more into your redeeming arms.”
Christ never tires of showing us his mercy. He hoists us to his shoulders again, like a shepherd who has recovered a lost lamb. There is a tenderness which never disappoints us; our joy is restored.
The Old Testament is full of shouts of joy, in anticipation of the Messiah. Just look at the prophets, especially Isaiah and Zephaniah.
In the New Testament, “rejoice” is the greeting of the angel to Mary. Mary’s Magnificat during the Visitation acclaims: “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Jesus was “filled with joy by the Holy Spirit” (Luke 10.21). Jesus says in John’s gospel (15.11) “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and so that you may be filled with joy.”
The early Christians were filled with joy on Easter, encountering the Risen Lord (John 20.20). They shared their meals in joy, maintained their joy in persecution, and spread that joy to succeeding generations.
We have inherited the “Joy of the Gospel” and we are encouraged to pass it on to others, to pay it forward (as we might say today). We evangelize joyfully, as we share the good news with others. Christians should exhibit the joy of the Lord, not a “funeral face” of soberness and worry.
Pope Francis hopes that the world will receive the good news from us, as “ministers whose live glow with fervor, who have first received in themselves the joy of Christ.”
The vision statement of Pope Francis goes on to spell out ways to do this evangelization; I will talk about these things, as Advent progresses.