As we continue our Advent journey, we come across the great St. John the Baptist. We are reminded of the joy of this season when we recall the great joy that marked his first encounter with the Lord Jesus, how his mother recounts how the baby in her womb literally leaps for joy in the Presence of the King of Kings. Pope Benedict frequently noted the importance of joy in the Christian life. In fact, he noted specifically that one of the reasons why so many people actually leave the Church was because of their experience of joylessness! That is worth paying attention to, especially as our Diocese enters into the second phase of the Bishop’s plan for evangelization, the phase that concentrates on bringing back the lost. How many of those who left us, left because they had similar experiences of joylessness?
Contrast that with how Pope Benedict notes that the Christian message began with a command for just the opposite, as the Archangel Gabriel said to Mary: “Rejoice!” Often translated as “Hail,” hail doesn’t convey what the original Greek intended, which was “rejoice!” The Pope states that Christianity began with the command to rejoice! St. John the Baptist leaps for joy in his mother’s womb; the shepherds are told by the Angel that he brings a message of great joy! Our relationship with the Lord Jesus is meant to be a joyful one. So, where do we get the joy? The primary agent of joy, as the New Testament points out, is God the Holy Spirit, for joy is among the fruits that He brings about in our lives. The more we yield to the power of the Holy Spirit, the more those fruits become manifest in our lives.
So how do we yield more to the power of the Holy Spirit? We do so by releasing those gifts of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit gave us at our Confirmation, especially the gift of tongues, which, of all the nine Pauline charismatic gifts, is the one that is specifically oriented toward us. It builds us up; it makes us stronger, it releases joy and the other fruits of the Spirit into our lives. This also empowers us to live in greater freedom, for the power of the Holy Spirit enables us to resist the temptations of the flesh, and the greater experience of the joy of the fruits of the Spirit helps us to choose against the false joys we are offered by the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Yielding more to the power of the Holy Spirit during this Holy Season prepares our hearts to receive the Lord Jesus more deeply, that He would be born in us in a way that more and more possesses our hearts and minds. The more we pray in tongues, the more the Spirit’s power builds in us, thus enabling us to more joyfully live for the Lord Jesus. We are meant, as the Constitution on the Church in the Modern World points out, to offer to the world Gaudium et Spes: joy and hope. We cannot derive either from our circumstances alone, for both are supernatural gifts that must be sought supernaturally. In His great love for us, the Lord Jesus has given us His Holy Spirit to provide that grace we need to live this supernatural life. As we yield more and more to His power in our lives, we will walk with greater confidence and success this supernatural walk we have been given. This Holy Season is a perfect opportunity to do so, as the whole point of the Season is to draw closer to the King of Kings, Who loved us first. Even so, come Lord Jesus! — Fr. Ed