Jesus’ Joy and Ours in Sharing the Faith, 1st Tuesday of Advent, December 3, 2013

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent
Memorial of St. Francis Xavier
December 3, 2013
Is 11:1-10, Ps 72, Lk 10:21-24

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click here: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today we see in the readings something very important as we prepare in Advent for the “good news of great now” that we will hear on Christmas and that should resound throughout the world ever since Jesus’ incarnation. Jesus came into the world so that his joy may be ours and our joy may be all-encompassing (Jn 10:10). Today’s readings help us to ponder Jesus’ joy, our joy, and how we’re supposed to share that joy with others so that they, too, may be filled with joy.
  • At the beginning of the Gospel, St. Luke tells us, “Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.” He was full of joy at the reality that it was God the Father’s “gracious will” to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom to the “childlike,” to those who trust in his as beloved children, to those who are docile, uncomplicated and dependent on his providential care and love. These mysteries are hidden from the “wise and the clever” of the world not because God doesn’t want them to receive the revelation and come to salvation but because they obscure their own perception of revelation through their own complications and complications. The fullness of that revelation, Jesus says, is the knowledge of the Father and the mystery of his love. The fullness of that revelation is seen in the image of the Father, Christ himself.
  • That’s why Jesus turned to his disciples and told them, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” All the great heroes of Old Testament times hungered to receive “all the things” that had been handed over to Christ by the Father. They longed to see and hear the fulfillment of all the prophecies in the Messiah who would be Son of God and Savior in a way far greater than they had imagined. Jesus rejoiced at their good fortune. If that’s true, how much greater is Jesus’ joy that we not only behold him in his real presence, hear his words in the Gospel, but have a chance to touch him and be touched by him in a way far more profound than even his disciples when he was proclaiming these words for the first time! This is why St. John, in his first letter, overflowing with joy wrote, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerning the Word of life … we proclaim now to you … so that our joy may be complete.”
  • Jesus had come to share that joy. In today’s first reading, we see that he, the “shoot from the stump of Jesse” had the Holy Spirit “rest” on him, the “spirit of wisdom and of understanding, … of counsel and of strength, … of knowledge and of fear of the Lord.” When Jesus entered the Nazareth synagogue to preach for the first time, he cited Isaiah, said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” and gave the purpose of that anointing: “because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor, …  to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,  and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit as he was declaring to the childlike, to those who are poor and know they’re in need of the Father’s help, the good news, healing, liberation and grace of God.
  • Jesus wants us to share that joy. And we will only if we share his revelation with others! We, too, have been anointed with the Holy Spirit in Confirmation precisely to bring the joy of God’s revelation to others. Just as the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and immediately burst through the closed doors of the Upper Room to proclaim the good news of great joy revealed in Christ’s words, life, death and resurrection, so the Holy Spirit wants to fill us with the fruit of joy (Gal 5:22) and help us to bring that joy to others.
  • Pope Francis, in the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) he gave us a week ago stressed this connection between joy and sharing the faith. All of salvation history, he said, is a “great stream of joy.” Our Christian joy “drinks of [Jesus’] brimming heart.” “The good news,” he says, “is the joy of the Father who desries that none of his little ones be lost, the joy of the Good Shepherd who finds the lost sheep and brings it back to the fold.” As we pass on the faith to others, the revelation Christ has given to the childlike, we’re not people passing on “new obligations,” but instead “people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet.” This joy is what attracts people to the Gospel, to the source of the joy we share. The whole Church exists, Pope Francis teaches us, to share this joy of Christ, the joy of forgiveness, the joy of communion, the joy that flows from the Father’s love. And when we’ve really experienced this joy, how can we keep it to ourselves. Francis asks, “If we have received the love that restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?,” adding, “The primary reason for evangelizing is the love of Jesus that we have received, the experience of salvation that urges us to ever greater love of him. What kind of love would not feel the need to speak of the beloved, to point him out, to make him known?”
  • Today we celebrate the feast of a saint who grasped and lived these lessons, who, to quote from the prayers of today’s Mass, “journeyed to distant lands out of longing for the salvation of souls,” who was filled with the “fire of charity,” who “won many peoples” for God. St. Francis Xavier was the great 16th century  apostle of India and Japan and died trying on the shores of China trying to bring the Gospel there. He did this not because he felt impelled by obligation but out of love for God and others, to bring God the joy of so many sons and daughters and to bring those sons and daughters to discover the reality, love and joy of God Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He’s the patron saint of the Church’s mission work and considering that the Church is a mission, he’s one of the most important patrons and models that the Church has.
  • His letters to St. Ignatius about his missionary adventures have not only moved tens of thousands to become missionaries, but to help so many others recognize how much damage occurs through neglect when we don’t live the missionary nature of the Christian life. Every year priests, religious and all those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours ponder this letter he sent in 1544 to his friend and religious superior: “We have visited the villages of the new converts who accepted the Christian religion a few years ago. … The native Christians have no priests. They know only that they are Christians. There is nobody to say Mass for them; nobody to teach them the Creed, the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Commandments of God’s Law. I have not stopped since the day I arrived. I conscientiously made the rounds of the villages. I bathed in the sacred waters all the children who had not yet been baptized. This means that I have purified a very large number of children so young that, as the saying goes, they could not tell their right hand from their left. The older children would not let me say my Office or eat or sleep until I taught them one prayer or another. Then I began to understand: ‘The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ I could not refuse so devout a request without failing in devotion myself. I taught them, first the confession of faith in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, then the Apostles’ Creed, the Our Father and Hail Mary. I noticed among them persons of great intelligence. If only someone could educate them in the Christian way of life, I have no doubt that they would make excellent Christians. Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians. Again and again I have thought of going round the universities of Europe, especially Paris, and everywhere crying out like a madman, riveting the attention of those with more learning than charity: ‘What a tragedy: how many souls are being shut out of heaven and falling into hell, thanks to you!’ I wish they would work as hard at this as they do at their books, and so settle their account with God for their learning and the talents entrusted to them. This thought would certainly stir most of them to meditate on spiritual realities, to listen actively to what God is saying to them. They would forget their own desires, their human affairs, and give themselves over entirely to God’s will and his choice. They would cry out with all their heart: Lord, I am here! What do you want me to do? Send me anywhere you like – even to India.”
  • Reading those words soon after they were published for the first time, the future St. Philip Neri went to his spiritual director and said that he thought the Lord was asking him to follow Francis to India. His wise spiritual director told him, “No. Rome will be your Indies!,” and St. Philip worked as hard bringing people back to the faith in Rome after the sack and so much debauchery as St. Francis Xavier had been doing in far away lands. Likewise, for us, Fall River must be our Indies. There’s no reason why we can’t do here what St. Francis did in Goa, Malaysia and Japan. He had 46 chromosomes just like us. He needed to eat, sleep and go to the bathroom just like us. But he burned with a hunger to share with others not only the joy of faith in the Christian life here on earth but the eternal joy that comes from those who receive God’s revelation like little children and conform their entire lives to it. Pope Francis is trying to raise up a whole Church of St. Francis Xaviers, to have all Christians share their sense of blessedness at seeing what we see, hearing what we hear, and being touched on the inside by the One we receive. This is what will bring us joy. This is what will bring God joy. This is what will bring others joy. And this is what will bring the whole Church joy. We finish by renewing the prayer we said in the opening Collect: “Grant that the hearts of the faithful may burn with the same zeal for the faith and that Holy Church may everywhere rejoice in an abundance” of sons and daughters. Amen!

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
IS 11:1-10

On that day,
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A Spirit of counsel and of strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
But he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.

On that day,
The root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
The Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17

R. (see 7) Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
He shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
May his name be blessed forever;
as long as the sun his name shall remain.
In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed;
all the nations shall proclaim his happiness.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

Gospel
LK 10:21-24

Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said,
“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows who the Son is except the Father,
and who the Father is except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”Turning to the disciples in private he said,
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.
For I say to you,
many prophets and kings desired to see what you see,
but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”