Homily December 21th, 2022

December 21st – Lk 1:39-45

All of today’s readings exude a profound sense of joy, but this joy comes to the forefront in the Gospel. We’re told that as soon as Elizabeth hears Mary’s greeting, “the infant leaped in her womb,” and then Elizabeth herself relates that fact to Mary, saying “the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” That word for leaped always implies joy, and when Elizabeth specifies that it was for joy that the child leaped, she uses the word ἀγαλλίασις (ag-al-lee’-as-is), the same word the Greek Old Testament[1] and Saint Paul[2] use for “the oil of gladness,” and which many of the Church Fathers associated with the Holy Spirit.[3]

In other words, we see that the joy experienced by Elizabeth and John is not merely an emotional joy; it’s something spiritual, and the cause is simply the presence of Christ. When He draws near, we become joyful, because it means that the One who loves us and who orders all things for our good is close. When we reflect on this, we can see that if we really trust in God’s providence, the fact that everything that happens God either makes happen or permits to happen, and these things are always for my good, then we see that God is always close at hand and, hence, we can always be filled with Christian joy. Even at moments of great difficulty, joy can be had; it adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved by an infinite God who wants nothing but the best for us.[4]

We can see, then, that “utterly trustful and childlike love of God is the one true joy in the world, and so saints are the happiest people imaginable.”[5] To find examples of this, we don’t have to look very far: Saint Gabriel Possenti, who died at the age of 24, was known for his joy. Even in the midst of great sufferings from tuberculosis, he would write to his father “My life is one of unending joy.” In fact, his brothers in the monastery often sought to be with him in his cell, taking care of him, since his joy was so great, “it cheered and warmed them like sunshine.”[6] Or Saint Teresa of the Andes, who, although born into a wealthy family, gave up everything to become a Carmelite. As Pope Saint John Paul II said of her, “This is the new hymn of Christian love that rises spontaneously from the soul of this young girl! God is infinite joy! She herself said, ‘When Jesus is loved, everything is joy! The cross is not heavy; martyrdom is not felt. We live more in heaven than on earth.’” As she wrote: “I can’t do anything else than love [Jesus Christ]. What do you expect when Jesus Christ, that mad lover of mine, made me fall madly in love with Himself?” In her letter to her older sister, Lucia, (letter 112) she said, “I want to tell you about my happiness. Yes, I want you to feel for just a moment, the happiness of belonging entirely to God, but there’s no human language that can express the divine feelings in which my soul finds itself submerged. I’ve given Him everything, it’s true, but I’ve also come to possess the one who is Everything.” In that she found her joy.

Let us ask, through the intercession of Mary, Cause of Our Joy, to take advantage of this Advent season to grow in our trust of His Divine Providence, and so be firmly rooted in Christian joy.


[1] Ps 44:8

[2] Hb 1:9

[3] See, for instance, Saint Ambrose, On the Holy Spirit.

[4] Cf. Pope Francis, EG 6.

[5] Sister Mary Eleanore, CSC, The Joyful Ways of the Saints (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute, 1999), 11.

[6] Ibid., 23.

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