Here are some thoughts from the Advent Day of Prayer conducted by Fr. Marek on Monday of the Third week of Advent. The theme of our mediation is “Gaudete in Domino semper”.
“Rejoice in the Lord always” reads the opening antiphon for the 3 Sunday of Advent Mass. Yes, yesterday we celebrated the Rejoice Sunday. As you have noticed, in order to remind the people that they were preparing for the very joyful occasion of the birth of Jesus, the celebrant wore “rose” vestments yesterday and we lit the rose candle on the advent wreath. We expressed our joy in the coming of Jesus, our savior.
Someone said that “our deepest desire is to be known and loved completely, unconditionally and everlastingly, by another person.” My friends, only God can fulfill that desire. But original sin cut this world off from friendship with God, and so the human heart was stranded.
On Christmas Day, two thousand years ago, God came to our rescue. And now, because of Christ, the true, lasting joy that each one of us desires more than anything else, is possible.
There is a story told about a man to travel to St. Louis on business. This was years ago when Christians kept Sunday as a very special day. On Sunday morning, he left the hotel looking for a place to worship. The streets were quite deserted, but finally he saw a policeman and asked him for directions to the nearest church.
The stranger thanked the policeman for the information and was about to walk off when he turned and asked the policeman: "Why have you recommended that particular church? It looks like a Catholic church. There must be several churches nearby that you could have recommended."
Can you guess how the policeman responded? He smiled and said: "I’m not a church man myself, but the people who come out of that church are the happiest looking church-people in St. Louis and they claim that they have received Jesus and they are happily taking him to their homes. I thought that would be the kind of church you would like to attend."
What a beautiful characteristic for a Christian person – a happiest looking people.
I believe that a Catholic person should always be a happy person. Why? Because at every mass we have a chance to receive Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, the whole Jesus — into our hearts and take him to our homes, families, friends. Is there a greater gift for a sinful person?
To those who loved Him and followed His command, Jesus said: “You are the light of the world.” As brothers and sisters of Christ and members of his Church, as the lucky people who are blessed to receive Jesus in Holy Communion – we must happily reflect Christ to others just as the moon reflects the light of the sun.
The joy of Jesus, the joy of Christmas, can only be ours to the extent that we work with Jesus to bring joy into the lives of others.
Consider the story of one young man. Sick and puny as a baby, he remained frail and delicate all his days. Later, as a pastor, his maladies were so severe that he could not serve his growing congregation.
Instead he wrote them letters filled with hope and good cheer. Even though his body was frail — his spirit soared. He wrote over 600 hymns , mostly hymns of praise. When his health finally broke in 1748 — he left one of the most remarkable collections of hymns that the world has ever known. His name was Isaac Watts.
His contribution to the Christmas season? Probably the most sung of all the Christmas hymns, "Joy to the World; the Lord is come."
Could Isaac Watts have written so, if his life had been easy? I don’t know. It is amazing, though, how often persons who have everything — are spiritual zeroes, whereas those who struggle through life — have souls with both depth and height.
When we look at our life we notice that it is very difficult to be always happy. Sometimes we are depressed, angry, even nasty… Do we know why? Because there is no true joy in us, there is no Christ’s joy, we haven’t allowed God to fill us fully with his love.
Jesuit priest, Father De Mello wrote a reflection of a river fish. “Excuse me,” said a small river fish that happened to reach the ocean. “You are older than I, so can you tell me where to find this thing they call the ocean?" "The ocean," said the older fish "is the thing you are in now." "Oh, this? But this is only salty water. What I’m seeking is the ocean," said the disappointed fish as he swam away to search elsewhere.
People quite often act like the small river fish. They look for God, but they want God — to look like the image they created themselves in their minds. Otherwise, they will not see him. They do not want to recognize God who surrounds them. They do not want to accept the miracle of the Eucharist – this is God? – they ask like the small river fish – Isn’t it just a white wafer?
Open your heart to the grace of God! You live in the ocean of God’s love and joy. Intake Him, let Him flow through you.
In one of the Advent songs — we sing O come o come Emmanuel. This song is based on the Prophet Isaiah and the Gospel of Matthew. The gospel introduces God as Emmanuel, which means - God living with us. That’s right. God lives with us. We live in true God. This should be a source of great joy for us.
A parent wrote in a letter to a Catholic magazine these true words: “To avoid offending anybody, the school dropped religion altogether and started singing about the weather. At my son’s school, they now hold the winter program and sing increasingly non-memorable songs such as "Winter Wonderland," "Frosty the Snowman" and –this is a real song– "Suzy Snowflake," all of which is pretty funny because we live in Miami. A visitor from another planet would assume that the children belonged to the Church of Meteorology.”
O come, o come Emmanuel – and open our hearts and eyes. Transform us that we, that all the people, can recognize you as God and find true joy just in you. Transform people from being small river fish.
Years ago, when 20th Century Fox advertised in the New York papers to fill a vacancy in its sales force, one applicant replied: "I am at present selling furniture at the address below. You may judge my ability as a salesman if you will stop in to see me at anytime, pretending that you are interested in buying furniture. When you come in, you can identify me by my red hair. And I should have no way of identifying you. Such salesmanship as I exhibit during your visit, therefore, will be no more than my joyful, usual workday approach and not a special effort to impress a prospective employer." From among more than 1500 applicants, this guy got the job.
Jesus wants us to be ready like that man. We don’t know when He’s coming back. We don’t know when our individual life on earth will end. So we should be prepared all the time. What’s more – we must perform our Christian duty joyfully and try to influence this joy on others all the time.
In the twelve days we have before Christmas, let’s commit ourselves to doing two things.
First, let’s take enough time for personal prayer so that we stir up our own Christian joy – the devil wants to keep us so busy that we can’t do that; let’s outsmart him.
And second, let’s reach out to someone who needs to discover the only source of lasting joy: a deep, personal friendship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
If we make an effort, putting our little bit of bread onto the altar; God will work a miracle, just as he does it in the sacrifice of this and every holy Mass.