Advent 03, Year C-2009
- Let me hear sounds of joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice (Ps. 51:10)
Because of my many sins, I have much to be embarrassed about and be afraid of. If I could, I would run away from the Lord and hide, as Adam and Eve tried to do (Gen. 3:8). As Joseph’s brothers were terrified at his presence (Gen. 45:3), so will I be terrified too at the presence of the Lord because of my many betrayals.
Yet even when God confronts the guilty with judgment, he still offers hope. Our first parents’ disobedience was, according to the Easter Proclamation, a “happy fault” and a “necessary sin ..., which gained for us so great a Redeemer.” If Joseph was so reassuring toward his brothers, insisting that the provident God was still in control even when they were selling him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver (Gen. 37:28; 45:4-8), God is even more reassuring. The presence of the provident God means that misfortunes are followed by blessings. The Lord removes the judgment against us, as we are told in the first reading, and renews us in his love. And in Hos. 2, after a recitation of punishments, there comes finally—beginning in verse 14—a recitation of restoration.
That God is in our midst means ultimately, therefore, that he is bringing us joy. The Lord’s presence is reason for rejoicing always, irrespective of whether the times are good or bad, regardless of whether one is in shackles, like the apostle Paul, or free to move about, like Paul’s hearers or readers. Because the Lord is within reach, the Philippians and every one of his followers have no reason whatsoever to be anxious and every reason to be gratefully and entreatingly prayerful
The sinner particularly, when he repents, has reason to be joyful and gives motive for greater rejoicing (Lk. 8). And a repentant sinner’s joy is certainly not just affective but also effective, as effective as Zacchaeus’ joy. He not only welcomed the Lord “with joy” but also made the commitment: “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over” (Lk. 19:6, 8). The proof that the sinner has truly been allured by the Lord, led into the desert and spoken to in his heart by Lord is his acting on such instructions as those that St. John the Baptist gave to the “brood of vipers,” to tax collectors and soldiers as well, who, seeking for the restoration of Israel, had asked, “What should we do?”
Though a sinner, I need not run away or hide or be terrified but rather be full of joy—just so long as in the spirit of St. John the Baptist I can accept myself for who I am and not pretend to be other than who I am, admit my sinfulness, heed the good news of repentance he preached, and receive and be in communion with the mightier One who, for thirty silver coins, was providentially handed over for the forgiveness of sins (cf. Mt. 26:15).