2nd Sunday of Advent

Joy to the world!  The Lord is come!

Joy to the world! The Lord is come!

All four of our readings today have something in common.  They all speak about joy.  In the first reading, the prophet Baruch tells Jerusalem to take off their robe of mourning and misery and to put on the splendor from God forever.  “Up Jerusalem!  Stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God.”

 

Then, it’s our turn.  We respond to the first reading “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy!”  “Although they go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown, they shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves.”  Are you beginning to see a pattern?

 

In the second reading, Saint Paul writes to the Philippians, “Brothers and sisters:  I pray always with joy (there’s that word again) in my every prayer for all of you.”  Remember, Paul has visited Philippi and he’s writing to them after he’s gone, reminding them of the great gifts they have received.

 

Finally, we have reading from Luke’s Gospel.  Luke’s introducing us to the grown-up John the Baptist.  He’s a voice crying out in the desert:  “Prepare the way of the Lord!”

Four readings, all with the same central point.  We should be filled with joy.  Here we are at the 2nd week of Advent.  Jesus is coming!  He’s coming to save us.  We’re floundering in deep water and He’s the life boat.  All we have to do is reach out to Him and we’re saved!  We should be the most joyful sons-of-a-guns on the planet.

 

But what is joy?  It doesn’t mean running around with a silly grin on your face all the time.  Webster says it means “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.  That’s a pretty good definition.  Joy is an emotion.  That last bit about the prospect of possessing what one desires is all about our joy as Christians.  We have the prospect of possessing the thing we desire most, an eternity in the presence of God. “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy!”

 

What has He done for us?  He’s sent His Son to become one of us and to die so that our sins may be forgiven.  What more could anyone do?  Jesus has paid the ultimate price for you and me.  If we follow His instructions and His example, we have faith that when this life ends, we’ll go to heaven.  We come to mass to praise and worship God.  We come to give Him thanks.  We come to receive His very Body and Blood.

We had a wedding here Friday evening.  I love to do weddings.  Everyone is dressed up.  They’re all smiles.  They’re taking pictures because they want to remember the day.  It’s a happy occasion.  It’s also a sacrament.  It’s the only sacrament I can think of where the congregation bursts into applause when the sacrament is performed.

 

Now, ask yourself, “are you filled with joy right now?”  You just said you were, five times. “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy!”  That’s what you said.  I heard you.  Did you mean it?  If not, then maybe you should prayerfully consider what’s happening on this altar.

 

Did you know that mass actually begins when the second person gets here?  It’s true.  That’s what the Church teaches and it’s what Jesus meant when He said, “whenever two or more are gathered in my name I’ll be there.”  That’s all it takes, just two and He’s here with us.

 

So, what do you do when you get here?  Do you prepare yourself for the miracle you’re about to witness?  Do you kneel before God and ask Him to put you in the right frame of mind for the liturgy?  Do you look over the readings and pray for understanding?  Do you greet your friends and any visitors who might be here?  All worthy ways to spend the minutes before mass considering that Jesus may be sitting right next to you.

 

Or do you spend your time in church gossiping and talking about others behind their backs?  Or do you silently pass judgment on those around you?  C’mon, you know what I mean.  Maybe you’re critical of the way someone’s dressed.  Maybe somebody’s child is making a little too much noise.  Maybe, and this is surely one of the greatest sins of all, maybe someone is sitting in your seat!  Yikes!

 

Look, I can talk about these things because I’ve done them myself.  God help me, I still do sometimes.  It’s a common human fault.  When we put someone down, either by speaking ill about them, or just by thinking it, it may make us feel good for a short time.  We’re saying we’re better than that other person.  But honestly, we don’t build ourselves up by tearing others down.  What we really do is replace the feeling of joy that we should be experiencing with something else.  Maybe the responsorial Psalm should read, “The Lord has done great things for us; we should be filled with joy!” 

 

We should recognize this great church as the holy place that it is and act accordingly.  We should be welcoming to friends and strangers alike.  We should participate in the recited prayers and the sung prayers.  We should see that the sacrament of the Eucharist is just as exciting as the sacrament of matrimony.

We should be beacons of light in a dark world.  As we prepare for the birth of the

Christ child, we should examine our consciences and count our blessings. “Up Jerusalem!  Stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God.”

 

 “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy!”

 

 

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