There’s a lot of rejoicing going on in our parish these days! Finally we’re able to celebrate Mass in our newly renovated church, just in time for Advent! I believe the Holy Spirit is more active in our parish these days. I see big smiles, displays of good will, rejoicing and more rejoicing.
On the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary the bishop of our diocese came to celebrate Mass. He came to bless and to dedicate our church and us.
Bishop pointed out many details that were considered when renovation plans were being formulated, such as the sound system. He stressed the importance of being able to hear the Real Presence of Christ in the Word. We think of the Real Presence as being in the tabernacle or on the altar during the Consecration of the bread and wine. This is true, but our bishop informed us that the Real Presence is the Word we hear being proclaimed, just as real as Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. What wonder I felt at that moment. Suddenly I was gloriously aware of this truth made clear to me.
Bishop went on to tell us that the purpose of renovating the church is so God can reach us more easily and to remove as many obstacles as possible that might keep each of us from being touched by God. Our bishop gave music as another example of God reaching us. He told us music is good for the soul and he reminded us that music remains a consolation to us. Finally, He reassured us that no matter where we celebrate Mass, all the Saints and Angels are with us at every Mass, such joyful news just days from Gaudete Sunday.
But this morning as Father began his homily, it wasn’t what I expected for Gaudete Sunday. Father reminded us that it doesn’t always feel like God is with us or taking care of us. Sometimes things don’t go the way we hope.
This is what I remember from this morning’s homily, though not Father’s exact words. Do we get discouraged when it seems that God doesn’t answer our prayers? Father referred to today’s gospel from Matthew 11. John the Baptist sent disciples to ask Jesus if He is the Messiah or should they look for another. Father had us consider the possibility of John doubting or becoming discouraged over his mission.
I never thought John the Baptist could have doubts about Jesus being Our Lord and Savior, but then John was in prison at the time. John might have wondered if his imprisonment was part of God’s plan. Surely Jesus’ answer to His disciples would dispel any doubts John might possibly have had: “Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” Matthew 11:22-23
Sometimes I have doubts of faith. Later, when I remember all God has done for me, I’m upset with myself for doubting. I wonder how I could ever doubt God’s love. His love and blessing is enough for me to believe in Him. But what about the times Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to fill me with such joy? What about all the signs and wonders God has given me over the years? These things I can never forget. When I start to doubt, all I need do is think on God’s love for me and all the blessings God has given me.
Jesus understands it’s sometimes difficult to keep our faith strong. We have reminders from Jesus to help with our faith, such as this gospel passage, Luke 10:23-24, Jesus tells the disciples in private, “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.” We have the Word of God to help with our faith and belief. And though I envy the disciples for being able to see, hear and even touch Jesus, we are even more greatly blessed than the prophets and kings of the Old Testament. We are priests, prophets and kings of the New Covenant given to us by Jesus at the Last Supper. How I love Jesus! My Savior, my God! Jesus has given us everything!
I get excited when I think of and write about Our Lord. How can I not? How can I not get excited, especially on Gaudete Sunday? As I sit in our beautiful church, scribbling down these notes, I’m at peace. The church is mostly empty now as people go home. I ponder the mystery of the Holy Trinity, especially The Holy Spirit. I believe Jesus has been sending the Holy Spirit to me more and more lately. I cannot make it through Mass without crying a little as the Holy Spirit helps me understand so many things I missed before. The Holy Spirit helps me to appreciate the beauty of Christ.
I open my little notebook. I have written down some of Father’s homily: “Do not let our own expectations blind us to Christ. Rejoice! God is always with us. He hears our prayers! He cares!” How joyful! Suddenly, on this Gaudete Sunday, I realize that Father gave us a joyful homily after all!