Below is my homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent this past weekend. As we prepare in these last hours for the coming of our salvation, we reflect what a great moment this is, a moment we share with people of faith through the centuries. May God Bless you all abundantly as His glory fills the earth for us to see, hear, touch and know for all eternity.
4th Sunday of Advent: C 2012
During the Advent season, as also during Lent each year the Holy Father, along with members of the Vatican offices take part in a series of reflections, or small retreats. For many years now, 32 to be exact, it has fallen to Fr Raniero Cantalamessa to provide these reflections.
During this year of faith Fr Catalamessa focused his three reflections of Advent on the great themes of this year, first the 50th anniversary of the second Vatican council, and second, the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. For his final sermon, just this past week, Father Cantalamessa touched upon what is perhaps the most important theme of this year, the joy of faith, as it is renewed and rooted in the Lord. So often in our day faith can become a sterile reality, a source of burden or anxiety rather than freedom and joy.
As we listen to our readings this last Sunday of Advent, we begin to behold the expectant joy that filled the hearts of Israel from centuries, to years, to months and days before the birth of Jesus the messiah. The prophet Micah in our first reading presents to us the great expectation of the coming of the true king centuries before the birth of Jesus. He would be king in the great line of David, a king who would come from humble beginnings in Bethlehem and would rule his people with justice and love for all eternity. There was great hope in this king, that everything would be transformed in Him.
As we move forward centuries in expectation, we hear the words of our Gospel. Mary travels to visit Elizabeth and on merely hearing the sound of her voice the child (John the Baptist) leaps in his mother Elizabeth’s womb. John the Baptist recognizes in Mary’s womb the presence of God. Like king David who danced before the ark of the covenant (Gods presence with the Israelite people), so now in the child Jesus, John recognizes that same God present in the ark, and proclaims the same joy that centuries before was made known by David. This first expression of joy is so important for us as Christians, for it shows us what our joy, what our expectation should be these mere days before we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
In the birth of Jesus we do not have the beginning of the Incarnation, that happened 9 months ago on the feast of the annunciation. On Christmas we celebrate that the presence of Jesus should be acknowledged by all, for it can be seen, heard and touched by all in this small child in the manger. The joy that fills our hearts today should be a joy that soon, very soon, Jesus will be known by all, for he shall be seen and heard by all, even the most distant observers.
In his sermons on the joy of Advent Fr Cantalamessa reminded me of a campaign that took place a number of years ago in London, England. He spoke to the Holy Father these words:
“[T]here was a campaign being promoted by the so-called militant atheists. Their publicity slogan, which was affixed to London’s public transport, read: There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life. [He continued] The most insidious element of this slogan isn’t the premise ‘There is no God’ (which, of course, has yet to be proven) but the conclusion: ‘Enjoy your life!'”
As we live out our Christian lives these last days that prepare for Christmas, we need to be very aware of the disposition, the bearing which we carry with us. If we understand what we celebrate these coming days, our lives should overflow with joy that reaches the depths of our soul. We enjoy our lives because Jesus has come in the flesh, we rejoice with exultant joy because nothing other than this child lying in a manger can speak so eloquently and directly of God’s love and the joy he desires for us. We enjoy our lives in all fullness because we discover in Jesus Christ the fullness of who we are, who we were created to be. As we anticipate Christmas, we join the throng of billions through the centuries who discover with us, just who Jesus Christ is; that He is our path to joy, to peace, and to the one joy that satisfies for all eternity.
Finally Fr Cantalamessa reflects:
“Joy is the only sign that even unbelievers are able to understand, and it can place them in serious crisis (far more that reproach and argumentation),” he added. “The most beautiful testimony a bride can give her husband is a face radiant with joy, because that alone tells him that he has filled her life with happiness. This is also the most beautiful witness the Church can give to her divine Bridegroom.”
As we prepare for Christmas, prepare to welcome the divine bridegroom let us be a people of joy, for Christ is coming, to fill our hearts, and to overflow and fulfill the longing of our world.