There is a folk wisdom saying: “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar” I’m not quite sure why a person would want to catch flies. But, applied to our faith, if we want to introduce people to Jesus we might want to listen to this aphorism. Christians, especially Catholics are often labeled as kill joys! We don’t make the message of Jesus appealing. What do people hear?
Don’t do this!
Don’t do that!
People often complain, “You Christians are all about limiting human pleasure. Catholics want to restrict my personal freedom and individual rights! How depressing you people are, How “not fun!” Why be part of that?”
You know, people even sit in church with glum faces almost saying to others “Dare me to look like I am happy during Mass! I’m here, you want me to be joyful, too?” We’re supposed to be serious in church!
Yet, notice what command is all through the readings, today. REJOICE is all over the readings, this Mass! Be happy, be glad, rejoice!
Why? We have Good News! We are anointed in Baptism and Confirmation, to be conformed to Christ and to share the Happy News!
He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD.
Sounds like something that’s worth getting happy about. The downers of life are reversed. Life is going to be better. In Jesus, we are truly free. We don’t have to conform to society’s expectations. Society’s norm for success, that voice in our head that says happiness is to be rich, be beautiful, be something other than yourself, that tyranny doesn’t rule us when we’re members of Christ’s body. Unfortunately, too many Christians and Catholics attend Mass as if they’re bored to death or believe that Religion is supposed to always be serious.
When you believe that death isn’t the end of your existence, it frees you up to take chances in this life to challenge the stats quo; that the poor will always be poor, that war is the only way to bring peace, might is right. What we Christians say is “I don’t think so! We’ll work ourselves to death to prove Christ’s way is the better way to live. And by God, we’re happy to do the work”
One could say the Christian vocation is to “stand out” from the crowd – John the Baptist certainly did! “There appeared one crying out in the desert!” He wore odd clothes, he did stuff not approved by the religious authorities like baptizing without a license, so to speak.
But this guy who stood out did not to draw attention to self…instead he’s always pointing to Jesus as the source of our joy and freedom. That’s the vocation of the church. That’s the vocation of each Christian to joyfully do the work of pointing out Jesus. It’s not me doing the work! It’s Jesus who brings people to better life.
So, in Advent we remind ourselves Jesus is coming, again…to make everything right. Meanwhile the church is called to point out where he comes in the present. He comes where-ever people are sacrificing their ego or doing acts of mercy making life better, more joy filled for others without looking for compliments and awards and praise.
Perhaps the Rose color of the liturgy today is a way of saying
Let the world know we’re a joyful people because we know Jesus who frees us from fear and from death as we wait for him to come again and complete the work he began that first time among us in the flesh. Rose is a color that speaks of joy.
Stand out from the crowd (covered in pink you do!), be different and point out how great it is to be a member of Christ with the hope of eternal life. Society says that “real men don’t wear pink!” Dare to challenge conventional worldly wisdom. Real Christians stand out from the crowd wearing the bright garment of Christ lighting the way to life at its best, loudly laughing at the danger of death, rejoicing at the possibilities that await on the day of the Lord Jesus’ return.