Joy comes from living as if Christ is in our midst

12-16-2018HomiliesFr. Chad King

On this 3rd Sun of Advent the Church calls us to re-focus ourselves in this season, which is why we change the color of the candle that we lit on the Advent wreathe, as well as the color of my vestments. This 3rd Sunday is called Gaudete, means to rejoice. So also, our readings keep to that theme: “Shout for joy”. “Sing joyfully”. “Be glad and exult with all your heart”. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again, Rejoice”. Those are the opening lines from our 1st and 2nd readings. So today, I want us to reflect on the difference between true and authentic Christian Joy and the superficial happiness of the world; and then help to explain how to attain and keep that authentic Christian joy. First, you probably know about the superficial happiness that I’m talking about, and the mask that people tend to put on on the outside, but inwardly they are far from happy and content. The worldly happiness tends to be short-lived and is so dependent on other people and circumstances around us. I can see by the nodding of your heads that you know well that kind of superficial worldly happiness. On the other hand, Christian joy is the joy and happiness that is long-lasting, it is deep-seated, and is not so dependent on people and circumstances. It is not a mask that is seen on the outside only, but it is a deep interior joy and peace which consistently and naturally affects what others see on the outside. Do you know and have that kind of joy? If you’re thinking I’m not really sure that I do, then this homily is for you, because I will help to explain how to attain it, so listen up. For the rest of us, we probably want to have that joy always be continually deepening within us, therefore, this homily is really for all of us.

Once again, our 1st reading begins, “Shout for joy, sing joyfully, be glad and exult with all your heart”. How do we do that? Where does that kind of deep interior joy come from? Let us look again at our 1st reading for the answer: “the Lord has removed the judgment against you; he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear. Fear not, do not be discouraged, the Lord, your God is in your midst, a mighty savior”. My brothers and sisters, it is called Christian joy for a reason- because it comes from Christ. Simply put, that kind of authentic, deep, long-lasting joy only comes from God being in our midst, and from our relationship with Him. And I am not talking about the kind of relationship in which you believe in God and have heard that God loves you and has taken away your sins; but where that truth is known, not just in your head, but has truly taken that long and life-changing journey from our heads to our hearts. So, let me share with you a secret about that joy. And it is the absolute, most important truth that I have learned in my entire life, in fact it is the single-most important truth that anyone of us can ever know, so, now really listen up. Are you ready? It’s this: God is so absolutely, deeply, and passionately in love with me. God truly delights in me, at all times, no matter what! And the same is true for you and every single person! Even though we might not be accustomed to doing so, when we go to pray, the most important thing we can do, is ask our Lord to show us and to contemplate on how God is looking upon us at that time. After all, it is “not that we have love God, but that God has first loved us” (1 Jn 4:10). What if we reflected on how God looks upon us every day? Listen again to the end of our 1st reading: “He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully over you”. Do you think that is true- that he rejoices over you, that he renews you in his love, that he sings joyfully over you? It is! Now, you might be thinking, ‘not me’, or ‘not right now, He doesn’t, He couldn’t’. ‘If you only knew what I’ve done, you wouldn’t, couldn’t say that’. My brothers and sisters, let me tell you that I learned that most important truth of God’s unconditional un-compromising love for me when I was at my lowest and darkest time of my life. After I had so blatantly sinned in God’s face, it is then that the truth of God’s love broke through; and has forever changed how I see God and how I see myself. I learned that God’s love for me, and you, is not dependent on what we do or don’t do, God’s love for us doesn’t sway, it doesn’t change because God doesn’t change. I agree, God might not like our every action, but God loves you and I, for God is able to separate our actions with who we fundamentally are. You parents understand, you might not always like your children’s every action, but you undoubtedly always love your children, no matter what. How much more perfectly our Heavenly Father loves us, His children. God loves us, and there is nothing we can do about it! But truly knowing that deep down for ourselves is the source of that deep-seated, lasting joy, no matter what people and circumstances comes our way.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, that Christian joy comes from God being in our midst and us being open to His Presence looking upon us. Now let us look at our Gospel and 2nd reading to learn how to attain that kind of authentic, lasting joy. In our Gospel, different kinds of people come to John the Baptist and ask, ‘what should we do?’ Basically, asking what should they do to get that kind of Christian joy? John the Baptist replies to them: ‘share what you have with others who don’t’, ‘stop collecting more than what is prescribed’, and do not falsely accuse anyone’. In other words, first, is if there are any of the 10 commandments you are not keeping, or if you are not giving of yourself with many acts of charity, then start there, for that is the first step. Truly it is the first step toward Christian joy because we were made in the image and likeness of God, we were made to give of ourselves- as God does, and when we do God is more present and alive inside us.

But after the foundational keeping the commandments, confessing our mortal sins, and doing acts of charity, how do we have and keep the Christian joy from dissipating with so many people, circumstances, suffering, pressures, and stresses that come our way? How do we keep the joy lasting through all the difficulties and anxieties of life? I said that the joy comes from our relationship with God. It comes from God being in our midst, and us being open to His Presence. So here comes the part that is more difficult, that you and I can struggle with because it takes our time and effort. It takes prayer and trust! Indeed, the authentic joy comes from abiding prayer and trust!

So, take a moment and think about that which you are most anxious and worried about- maybe it’s about a challenging relationship, or maybe it’s finances, or about work, or your health. Now that you have acknowledged what it is, relate it to the Lord. To relate simply means to take a little time to think about that person or situation, and think about what you really want or need in regards to it. It might be helpful to say something like, ‘Lord, I place this person/situation in your hands, teach me what, if anything, to say or do, and how and when to say and do it. But I place it in your hands, Lord Jesus, take care of it according to your perfect will for my life. I surrender it to you through the hands of our Mother Mary, and ask her who is my loving mother to take care of the details for me’. However, to relate doesn’t mean that you then keep thinking and dwelling on it over and over again, it doesn’t mean that you complain about it, fuss over it, or over-analyze it. To relate means to entrust it, to surrender it into God’s hands, and thus it means to then let it go- to entrust it!

Then be still, be silent, listen and receive from God. Maybe in the silence of your heart God will give you some prompting, some direction, or insight. If so, thank God and then follow it after your prayer. If not, then simply rest in the peace God gives you. That peace is God’s sign that He has heard our prayer, and most often what we really need is that confidence that He’s heard our prayer and has us and the situation in His hands. Then give thanks for the peace and for hearing your prayer. Do the same the next day. Rinse and repeat, so to speak. Trust me, if we pray that way every day, then we will learn what it means to truly trust in God, and we will live in the freedom and joy which abiding in and trusting in God brings.

So, my brothers and sisters, can you imagine that deep, abiding joy, peace, and true freedom that will come when we pray and act as if our Lord and God is truly in our midst, and learn to trust in God’s love and providence for us, His children? Therefore, to close, listen and heed to what our 2nd reading says: “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 our Lord”.