3rd Sunday of Advent
Installation of Fr. T. Austin Murphy
Christ the King, Glen Burnie
Dec. 14, 2019
As your enthusiastic applause indicated, you have welcomed Father Murphy with great warmness. In a few short months, under his leadership, together with Fr. Vin and Fr. Diego, your wonderful deacons and lay leadership, Christ the King Parish has a new sense of unity, strength, and mission. Father Murphy, with the people of this parish whom you are so ably serving, I want to express yet again our warmest gratitude and support. Indeed you have brought to the people of this parish a newfound joy, an enduring joy, a joy that flows from the heart of the Gospel.
That is why it is so appropriate that you are being installed on Gaudete Sunday, for, as all of us are aware, “Gaudete” is the Latin word meaning “rejoice”. The opening words of the liturgy set the tone: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice! Indeed, the Lord is near” – words taken from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians. But in calling us to rejoice St. Paul doesn’t imagine that we live in a trouble-free world. No, the joy to which he calls us is deeper, more beautiful, and more enduring than the momentary joy of pleasure or success or even the avoidance of suffering. Rather, Paul is urging us to rejoice in the nearness of the Lord, the nearness of Jesus, which we will soon celebrate with great solemnity at Christmas.
For that reason, has the Church chosen as today’s Gospel the image of St. John the Baptist in the darkness of a prison cell, wondering if the Christ to whom he pointed really were the Messiah. Jesus sends him a message of hope and joy: “… the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news preached to them.” No, the joy Christ came to bring us is the joy of believing and knowing that God is near, that he truly loves us, and that, in the power of his love, God can heal us and give new meaning and purpose to our lives.
It could even be said that a chief responsibility of the pastor and his co-workers is – not to make everybody happy – no one, not even the Lord, can do that – but first and foremost to proclaim joy the joy of the Gospel; second, to celebrate joy in the holiness of the Church’s liturgical and sacramental life; and third, to lead the parish in sharing the joy of the Gospel with others, including the unchurched, the poor, and the vulnerable – and thus through Word, Sacrament, and Charity to form a joyful community of faith. Let’s take another look at each of these.
The Proclamation of Joy
First, the proclamation of the Gospel is always a proclamation of joy – the joyful message that God is love, that God loves us, that God knows us, cares about us, gave his Son to save us, calls us to holiness and friendship with himself and with one another, the God whose love will ultimately overcome every form of human weakness. As we have already seen, Jesus brought the Good News to John the Baptist who was held captive in the darkness of a prison cell. Many of us can think of those things in our lives that imprison us, that cloud and darken our spirits, that rob us of hope and joy – and here, every one of us, myself included, can fill in the blanks.
When the pastor and those who assist him proclaim and preach the Gospel, it must be as if Jesus himself has entered those hidden places in our hearts, as if Jesus himself and his message of hope has entered those prison cells that we all too readily create and in which we imprison ourselves. The message to be preached is the joy to be discovered when we realize that, in the midst of our pain, our God comes us and leads us step by step to healing, reconciliation, wholeness, and holiness. And when the pastor and those who assist him teach the Church’s doctrine, they are not merely dispensing religious “factoids”, but rather offering the reasons for our hope and joy, and a deeper understanding of what the Church believes and teaches and why she does so.
The Celebration of Joy
A second responsibility of a pastor is the celebration of Gospel joy in the Mass and the Sacraments. After all, the Gospel is not merely a matter of words but of deeds – and not our deeds but rather the great things God himself has done for us. And what are those great things that God has done for us? God revealed himself to us; God sent us his Son become one of us; his incarnate Son died and rose to save us from our sins and with the Father sent us the Holy Spirit to fill us with divine life and joy. And he formed the Church to be the Body of Christ of which we are the members. Indeed, what we proclaim in the Creed is what we celebrate in the liturgy.
As every priest is profoundly aware, when he leads his people in worship, he is not only recalling all God did to save us but indeed makes present and accessible the great and wonderful events that brought us new life in Christ Jesus. Because Christ draws so close to us with his saving love, the Mass and Sacraments are a celebration of joy. How we should rejoice to share in the new life Christ won for us in Baptism; to share in his death and resurrection and his real presence at Mass; to experience the Lord’s the forgiving touch in the Sacrament of Reconciliation; the presence of Christ in our marriages; the closeness of Jesus to us in illness. It is the truly greatest joy of every priest to lead his people in such celebrations of joy!
Forming a Community of Joy
Finally, the pastor and those who assist him proclaim and celebrate joy so as to form a truly joyful community of faith, worship, and service. What we believe and how we worship, should lead to a virtuous way of life, and, indeed, to live virtuously and to serve others in need brings us great joy. Our joy is compounded when we encourage and support one another as a parish community, in living our faith and in reaching out to those in need, especially the poor and vulnerable, those at the margins of society.
A community of joy is also a welcoming community, a community that is ready to share the cause of its joy, a community that is open to the presence of new members, especially our growing number of Latino members, as well as young people and young families, a community that is ready to involve them in the life and ministry of the parish, and not only the parish but also the wonderful school on this campus, Msgr. Slade.
Proclaiming the joy of the Gospel; celebrating the joy of God’s nearness to us; forming a joyful community of faith, worship, and service – this is a brief summation of the role of your pastor as together you face the challenges and opportunities that are yours in the years ahead. I am very grateful to you, Fr. Murphy, Fr. Vin, Fr. Diego, and to your dedicated team, and I am very grateful to you, the parishioners of Christ the King, for your faith, your goodness, and your involvement in your parish. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Lord of lords and the King of kings, I pray that the remainder of Advent will be a time of blessing and that you will experience the fullest joys of Christmas. May God bless you and keep you always in his love!