Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary- Homilies

"Jesus Christ: The Fulfillment of Our Humanity and the Source of Our Joy"
Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Advent

Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
12 December 2010
Year A

The opening scene of the hit Broadway musical, Oliver, is probably one of the most familiar of the entire play. The main character, based on Charles Dickens's classic novel, Oliver Twist, is an orphan. The scene takes place in the orphanage – dark, crowded, too cold in the winter, too hot in the summer; there's never enough food, never clean clothes or soft beds; it is an all-around miserable place to live. In the first scene of the musical, the orphans are eating their daily allowance of gruel under the threatening gaze of the supervisor. When Oliver finishes his small helping, he is still hungry. So he brings his empty bowl up to the supervisor and asks: “Please, sir, may I have some more?” The supervisor goes ballistic. He is astonished and infuriated by the request, and so, naturally, he launches into a song in which he explains that no one ever asks for more in the orphanage, that no one ever asks for anything - they should be satisfied with the little they get.

Oliver demonstrates that in our lives, we were not made for less. We were made for more. Our hearts desire more. And the whole of our lives is a journey to complete fulfillment – to becoming fully human. The passing pleasures and achievements of this world don't fill us up. They cannot fully satisfy this strong desire on our hearts for more than the world can offer.

We can look to the Church then, for hope in this area of our lives. No other institution has survived over two thousand years of history. No other institution has kept the same teachings, traditions, and structure for two thousand years. Just think of how unlikely is this amazing thread of continuity! Not only has the continuity survived but also the Church has expanded and grown over these past two millennia. The Church herself proves that this is a divine institution grounded in the truth and love of God Himself with its humble beginnings in that small, cold cave in Bethlehem.

With the birth of our Savior, man’s desire for God is met in his own reality. Thus, the preaching of St. John the Baptist had a divine purpose. It was the Messiah for which the heart of the Baptist longed – his whole life centered around Him, though not knowing who He would be. Therefore, when he hears of the works of the Christ, he asks: “Are you the one?” And how does Jesus answer? By testifying to those works. If John was paying attention to the response the disciples of Jesus bring to him, he would have heard the voice of Isaiah speaking those beautiful words found in our first reading: “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.” John’s prayers are answered, his work complete, his search for the Messiah finished, and the deepest longing of his heart is fulfilled. In Christ, John the Baptist finds his true joy.

We celebrate today the very same joy that John the Baptist found in Jesus. This Third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday – “gaudete” meaning “rejoice.” This joy is founded in the nearness of our God – that the birth of our Savior is that much closer to when we first began the Advent Season. In the birth of Jesus we find the Church in its nascent stage. Nonetheless, as mentioned before, it is here in the Church – amidst two thousand years of history, persecution, turmoil, expansion, schism, renewal, and grace – here we find Christ: the fulfillment of our humanity and the source of our joy. At this mid-way point on the road to Bethlehem, perhaps we could as ourselves – for what have we been searching? With what have we filled up our lives? What is the desire of our hearts? Why have we come here, to this church, this day? It is truly my belief that we are here because we do have a desire for God. That desire, however, must be first in our lives and in our hearts. This desire gives us the hope for eternal life. It must be what motivates our every thought, word and deed – in the same way it motivated St. John the Baptist.

As Pope Benedict XVI so beautifully commented in his Encyclical Letter, Spe Salvi:
It becomes evident that man has need of a hope that goes further. It becomes clear that only something infinite will suffice for him, something that will always be more than he can ever attain... we need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day. But these are not enough without the great hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain (Spe Salvi, #30-31).

With hearts opened up to the favor of God and touched by an experience of His grace found in the sacraments, we will desire more – more of the joy and grace that God gives to those who hearts are softened by His love. God does not reject us when we ask for more; He rewards us and fills us up with the only thing that can truly satisfy the longing of our hearts: His very self. And where do we get it? Here, in this place. The more time we spend with Him– even what little time we have– sitting in His presence in the Blessed Sacrament, the more He gives Himself to us.

As we come to receive Him in Holy Communion, let His grace fill us this day and keep the desire for more of His love ever present in our hearts, minds and souls and so lead us to true joy and the fulfillment of our lives.

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in West Springfield, MA


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