I was ordained in Nigeria. Right after my priestly ordination, my bishop assigned me to the Cathedral as Assistant Cathedral Administrator. At St. Boniface Cathedral, Idah, in Nigeria, there is a chapel of perpetual exposition and adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Many people visit the Chapel during the day and at night. Of the many people who went to the Chapel while I was at the Cathedral, a particular young man caught my attention. From the balcony of the rectory, I would always see him go into the Chapel at 4:30 pm. After observing his consistency in the first three months of my arrival at the Cathedral, I wanted to know more about him. I searched for him at the Sunday Masses to engage him in a conversation after Mass, but I did not see him at any of the Masses. My curiosity continued to grow in intensity. I then decided to wait for him outside the Chapel of Adoration one evening.
The young man came out of the Chapel, and I walked toward him and introduced myself to him. I asked him, “Which Sunday Mass do you attend here?” He smiled and replied, “I don’t come to this Church.” I then suggested, “Oh, you go to St Francis Parish or some other parish?” He smiled, shook his head, and said, “I am not a Catholic, and for now, I have no intention of becoming one. I am a Protestant.” Confused, I further quizzed him, “But I see you coming to this Chapel of Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every day. Can you help me understand what is going on here?” He laughed out loud, took a deep breath, and said, “Father, I am a Protestant, but I can confidently tell you that ever since I discovered the Most Blessed Sacrament and started coming here, there is nothing I have asked from God in this Chapel that he has not done for me. I don’t think you Catholics know the treasure that you have in the Blessed Sacrament. I come here twice daily: before I go to work, I come here to tell God my plans; after work, I come here to thank God for the day.”
After listening to more of his testimonies, I returned to my room, and I began to examine myself. How can this Protestant come from outside and outdo me in my expertise? He is not a Catholic; he does not receive Holy Communion. I am not just a Catholic Communicant; God has empowered me through the Church to bring about the Blessed Sacrament. Can I confidently say what this Protestant has said about the Blessed Sacrament? How often do I rush through the Mass because I have other important things to do after the Mass? When I am not officially scheduled to preside at Mass, do I make enough effort not to be absent from Mass? How often do I devoutly visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament? That was how the so-called Protestant put me to shame. I, the chef, am dying of malnutrition, while an outsider, who only smells the food is enjoying all the nourishment.
My Dearly Beloved in Christ, today is the Third Sunday of Advent. It is also called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete comes from Latin, and it means “Rejoice.” Rejoice is the first word of the opening antiphon of today’s Mass, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near” (Philippians 4:4-5). On this day, the Church reminds us not to postpone our joy. Joy is a gift that God has already given to us. We need to claim it and live it. In the Second Reading, St Paul identifies three marks of an authentic Church: 1) It is a happy and joyful Church, 2). It is a praying Church; 3) It is a thankful Church. On this Gaudete Sunday,the Church reminds us of the joyful character of our faith. Joy here is not the same as pleasure. This joy comes from looking inward to identify the blessings we already have in us. While we expect more blessings from God, we must identify, appreciate, and make the best of what we have now until we come to our heavenly inheritance, through Christ our Lord. Amen.