I love the honest and sincere question that the people ask John the Baptist over and over in our gospel this weekend:

What should we do?

People from wildly different groups are asking it, too. Faithful Jews. Tax collectors. Soldiers, even. All these people are coming from near and far to ask John the Baptist this crucial question because they feel deeply convicted by his witness and his message. 

They’re all wondering:

Could this be the Christ? Could this be the Messiah he have been longing for? He certainly seems to fit the part.

John the Baptist gives the people really clear answers to their question “What should we do?” He tells them to give to the poor and needy. To not take advantage of one another. To be fair, to be content with what they have.

But John the Baptist could have just as easily replied with this Sunday’s rallying cry:


He’s on the way! The Lord, the Lamb of God is coming! He is near! REJOICE and REPENT. 

In so many ways, we are still asking the same question aren’t we?


And the Church’s answer remains: REJOICE.

Now this certainly isn’t easy, especially when there is so much in this world that seems dead set on stealing our joy… People come to me carrying so much real suffering, so many things that are worth worrying about. Heartbreaking situations and deep frustrations that make rejoicing much more challenging.

Father, did you see that a statue of Our Lady of Fatima at the Basilica in Washington DC was vandalized last week before the Feast of the Immaculate Conception…? It seems like violence against the faith is on the rise. Is open persecution is coming? If so… then….

What should we do?

REJOICE! Have no anxiety at all. Pray for that poor sad man, that he may repent and come to know how much Mary and Jesus love him!

Father, I saw on Twitter that Australia is forcing people into COVID quarantine camps — there are fences separating the vaccinated from the unvaccinated inside supermarkets in Germany. Every day, I read about the latest variant, about case numbers going up again, about how this pandemic seems like it will never actually end!

What should we do?

REJOICE! Have no anxiety at all…

Father, my kids don’t want to have anything to do with the Faith. They think Christians are bigots. They think we judge and hate people because of our “old-fashioned” beliefs. They’re so combative. I don’t know what else to say. I don’t want them to go to Hell.

Father, what should I do?

REJOICE! Have no anxiety at all. Keep living your faith with boldness and humility. Be holy. Pray for them. And confidently invite their questions. Share the radical, unconditional love of Jesus with them.

Father, I keep on sinning in the same way over and over. I try so hard. I want to change, but I’m addicted. I’m stuck… and I’m embarrassed.

Father, what should I do?

REJOICE! Never give up. Keep fighting. Grace will triumph in the end, if you keep dragging yourself back to the confessional again and again. Take it one day at a time.

Father, I just received a terrible diagnosis. My loved one is dying. My heart is filled with grief and loss. My family is being pushed to the limit by so much sin and stress and dysfunction. I have no motivation anymore. I’m tired. It’s hard to pray. God seems so distant. I want things to be different. Life doesn’t seem fair.

Father, what should I do?

REJOICE! Be at peace. God knows all your struggles and is near to you. He has not abandoned you. Keep moving forward!

Father, the Church is a mess. I’m always hearing about terrible scandals involving bishops and priests. Some Church leaders seem to be advancing a very different version of the Gospel — a version that downplays personal responsibility, renders all religions the same, panders to problematic agendas, and refuses to call people to conversion.

What should we do?

REJOICE! I say it again… REJOICE! Have no anxiety at all!

But in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. 

Then… the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Jesus himself told us how much we would need to suffer, how difficult this life of following Him would be: “Believe me when I tell you this,” he says — “You will weep and lament while the world rejoices — you will be distressed, but your distress shall be turned into joy.”

That is the deep Mystery of our Christian faith — The world will think it is winning. The world will rejoice while we weep. But then… distress and suffering will somehow be transformed into joy — into fearless REJOICING. The shadow of the Cross somehow leads to the blinding light of the Resurrection.

If that’s true, then we are not talking about superficial joy here — The Catholic Church is not selling a therapeutic, shallow joy that ignores or overlooks pain.

No, John the Baptist meant what he said: “One much mightier than I is coming.” He’s on the way! I baptize you with simple, unsanctified water… But when He comes, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Last time I checked, Fire is painful.

Fire burns us. Fire tests us. Fire purifies us. Fire will separate the wheat from the chaff.

And yet, from the heart of that fire, Christians are invited to do the unthinkable:

REJOICE! Gaudete… Have no anxiety at all… Do not worry!

Christ once asked the crowds: “Who of you, by worrying, can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

He asks us the same today: Why do you worry?

Stop and imagine your life for a moment… What if you decided to stop worrying right now? It’s almost inconceivable isn’t it? And yet, Jesus is giving you permission to do just that.

How is that possible, you may ask?

Well, Saint Paul gives us the answer: Because “the Lord is near.”

That fact alone gives us permission to NEVER WORRY. That truth is enough for us to always and everywhere give thanks. To wholeheartedly trust and believe. To resist the urge to recoil in fear and self-reliance, and instead rest in the peace that surpasses understanding.

Think about it. We have Sacred Scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit. We have the Church and Her rich, robust Tradition. We have the Seven Sacraments instituted by Jesus that allow us to encounter Him through tangible, flesh-and-blood symbols. We have the Most Holy Eucharist, His Real Presence — We have faith, hope and love living in our hearts!

The Lord Jesus is near.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said that “all worrying is ‘atheism’ because it is a lack of trust in God.”

Wow. Isn’t that intense?

To worry is to disbelieve God’s presence in your life!

It’s a kind of atheism!

Joseph Ratzinger puts it this way: To “Rejoice” therefore means: Be believers, immersed in the certainty of what the Gospel has proclaimed to us: God loves us with a love that is not fickle.”

Be believers! Believe that Jesus, our God and savior, is close to us. Who will separate us from the love of God?

Death? A pandemic? Inflation? Supply chain issues? The mainstream media? Politicians? Supreme Court decisions? Christmas shopping?

No — none of those things have any real power to steal our peace — the peace that surpasses all understanding. None of those things can steal our joy, unless we allow them to! Unless we take our eyes off Jesus.

John 16:33 says that in this world, you will have troubles — but take courage! Jesus has conquered the world!

So — REJOICE! We have permission to confidently rejoice in the Truth no matter what.

I’d like to finish this homily today by sharing with you a part of the message given to us by Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast day it would have been today, had it not fallen on a Sunday. Her message to St. Juan Diego is so powerful and so comforting. It gives me courage.

She said this:

“Hear me and understand well, my little son, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish?”

That’s the key right there. What else do we wish for? Isn’t being with God enough? Isn’t being under the protection of Mary, Joseph, and the Lord Jesus Himself enough?

If so, then…

Why worry?