The following is the recorded text of Bishop Malooly’s homily Dec. 13, 2015, Third Sunday of Advent [Gaudete Sunday] at Ss. Peter & Paul Church in Easton, Md., for the opening of the Holy Door for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
This is a wonderful time in our church throughout the world. It’s an honor to be here at Ss. Peter and Paul in Easton to celebrate the beginning of the Holy Year for our Diocese of Wilmington, with its nine Maryland counties and three Delaware counties.
In each of my seven deaneries there is one church designated with the Holy Doors and this is the one for your county and I’m delighted to be able to begin the process in our diocese here. I will conclude next year at St. Elizabeth’s in Wilmington.
This is actually one of my favorite Sundays of the year. I’ve always liked Gaudete Sunday. Advent is not a penitential season but it’s a hopeful time. This third Sunday each year reminds us that we’re almost there. Let’s start rejoicing this Sunday because we’re almost there. We can welcome the Savior.
On a personal note this has an even more significant meaning to me. It was 15 years ago this week, that I was named a bishop. It was on the Monday after the Second Sunday of Advent, so my first formal parish Mass [after being named a bishop] was the Gaudete Sunday of 2000. So the readings were the same because 15 years ago, with the three-year cycle [of Mass readings] it was exactly the same as I had three years ago.
This particular Sunday leads to my bishop’s motto because one of the priests in Baltimore said, “Why don’t you take the quotation from St. Paul in the second reading, ‘Rejoice in the Lord’?” He said, “You’re happy in what you do; why don’t you advertise that?”
It’s exactly what I did. It reminds me that no matter how heavy the burdens of life can be — and we’ve had our share in this diocese as everyone else has. — God’s joy is always there to grab hold of.
Listen to what Pope Francis said on the feast of the Immaculate Conception when he was opening the [Holy Year] Doors at St. Peter’s, it puts a setting to this:
“The extraordinary year is a gift of grace. To pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father, who welcomes everyone and goes out to personally encounter each of them. It is he who seeks us. It is he who comes to encounter us.”
This will be a year in which we grow ever more convinced of God’s mercy. And in our three readings we see not only his mercy but the joy that comes from that.
In the first Reading from Zephaniah, we are told, “Be glad and exult with all your heart.” Why? It goes on: “The Lord has removed judgment against you.” No further misfortune do you need to fear. The Lord is in your midst. You are forgiven. Your sin is forgotten. Your sin is forgotten.
We are at one with God, and we are simply asked to get rid of the baggage that keeps us from being at one with God.
In our Second Reading, Paul to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice.”
And then Paul goes on: “Have no anxiety at all. The peace of God … will guard your hearts.”
Paul commends their kindness and their fondness for the community. He encourages them because they are supporting one another.
Then in the Gospel, we hear John the Baptist. People are following him. They are ready for a change. They want something good to happen in their lives. So there’s much anticipation and great expectation.
So they say, “What should we do?” What is our response?”
And he [John the Baptist] tells them: If you have two cloaks, share one. Do the same with your food. Be generous to others. If you are a tax collector, stop collecting more than prescribed. Take exactly what you are supposed to take.
He tells the soldiers: No extortion, no false accusations and be satisfied with your pay — simple, concrete, practical ways for the people 2,000 years ago to prepare for the coming of Jesus.
The wonder, the anticipation and the rejoicing will increase for each one of us as we unload our sinful baggage and better prepare ourselves.
The Holy Door is a ritual reminder of walking through the rite of conversion from sin to grace, from slavery to freedom, from darkness into light.
For each of us, this Advent and this entire year it will be different. There will be something that we probably need to correct, something in our lives we need to straighten out but the challenge for us, we’ve heard in the pope’s comments and we know, that God always seeks us out. The Prodigal Son — the father was waiting in anticipation for him to return from sin.
But we need to take some initiative. We need to take stock of our lives. We need to look clearly.
I’ve always felt that if Christmas does nothing more than bring us closer together to one another and to the Lord, then it is a great success. For this Christmas, it’s even a better opportunity.
We have walked through the door. Let us continue during this season and year to walk through the door with one another, to help others find that same mercy and peace.
The Father always is anxiously waiting for us. The Father always is anxiously waiting for us.