Rejoice! “Rejoice in the Lord, always” says St. Paul. It is a blessing to be joyful.
I am overjoyed with many wonderful experiences here at Sacred Heart Parish. This past week I have been overjoyed with the experience of our parish celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was something I will never forget, with such an outpouring of simple faith. The parish groups that planned and implemented the events before dawn and the Mass in the evening did a tasteful, masterful job. In the morning we had an estimated 1,000 persons come for Mananitas and serenading by our own musicians, a beautiful rosary, Matachines and an abundance of hot chocolate and pan dulce for all. To me the event was inspired, spirit-filled and delightful as a faith event. Many memories were made Wednesday morning for men, women and children.
One visitor who was touched was one of the local area adult Boy Scout leaders who has been helping our parish get our Hispanic Boy Scout group going successfully. He is not Catholic, and he doesn’t speak any Spanish, but he continues to be drawn back here to our parish events from time to time. Wednesday morning he was here at 5 am walking around almost starry-eyed, taking pictures.
At one point he turned to me and said, “America should see this.”
I was stunned by his insight. He didn’t fully understand what was happening, but the event moved him deeply. Somehow he knew instinctively that this was something so important that it should be experienced by everybody in America.
What did he see? Although not a Catholic, he saw hundreds and hundreds of people, families assembling orderly at a very early hour, in bitter cold to share their faith. Although not understanding Spanish, he felt comfortable among the families, mothers and fathers, children and grandparents honoring the Blessed Mother of our Lord together. He saw Christians worshiping together in great numbers.
“America should see this.” Yes, I thought, America should see this. And, America should do this. And, here we are doing it right here in our own parish of Sacred Heart. Earlier, the Austin Statesman American published an interview about Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrations with our Bishop Vasquez. The article included a list of 21 parishes in the Austin area that were also having special services for Our Lady of Guadalupe. Not only should America see this, but much of the Austin area did see it, and also had the opportunity. A thousand people came early Wednesday morning. Two thousand people came Wednesday evening for Mass.
My only regret, and it is a deep, heart-felt regret, is that almost none of our Anglo parishioners showed up at either event. And so, I thought, “America should see this,” because it is important to see and share our faith, even within our own parish. The experience was “life-giving” and inspiring. And, I thought to myself, why? Why is this so difficult? Why this hardness? She is our Mother. And, we should be united in our faith and worship. Jesus prayed at the Last Supper, “I pray…, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you….”
On this Gaudete Sunday, the Church joyfully redirects our attention and our expectations to Mary’s maternity and to a small stable in a cave far away in Bethlehem, where Jesus first came among us. On Gaudete Sunday all creation joyfully awaits the birth of the Son of God and Son of Man. The event has been uniting people of different cultures, languages and backgrounds for two thousand years, overcoming every kind of cultural and socio-economic barrier. We live out our own evangelization and salvation when we, too, gather at the manger to wait for his coming, rubbing elbows with many, many different people today and down through the ages. He makes everything new, but only if we say “Yes”, like the Virgin Mary said to the archangel Gabriel, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word”.
In their personal moment of conversion, when they had been baptized by John the Baptist, people asked him a very natural question that occurs to people when they are experiencing conversion of heart. They asked John, “What should we do?” John’s responses were to open their hearts; to share their wealth their talents and their hearts with others. The genuine experience of Gaudete, of joy in the Lord, inspires generosity of Spirit.