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  • Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent

    4 posts, 3 voices, 722 views, started Dec 15, 2008

    Posted on Monday, December 15, 2008 by (華娃娃) ChinaDoll

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    • Diamond
      Offline

      From Fr. McCarthy of St. Thomas More, Sandy, Utah:

      Related Readings: Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11
      1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24
      John 1: 6-8, 19-28

               When Latin was the language of the Mass, this third Sunday of Advent was known as "Gaudete Sunday." "Gaudete" means "Rejoice." This was – and still is – the first word of the entrance song, which says: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near."

               But  how can we rejoice when so many things are going wrong? Our economy is in such a sorry state. Unemployment is high, and many families find themselves one paycheck away from welfare. Millions are without health insurance. And some of us have personal problems that wear us down and will not go away. When we look squarely at all these troubles, how are we supposed to rejoice?

               Well, "Gaudete" does not simply mean "cheer up." When Paul tells us to "rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in all circumstances give thanks," he is not just telling us to lighten up. He is not speaking about the joy of the lighthearted and carefree, but about a deep-down joy at the core of our being.

               There have been times when, no matter how bad things were going, we have been basically at peace with ourselves and with our lives. We have not lost sight of what we know by faith: that God is a loving parent who cares and watches over us. We are going to be reminded of this again at Christmas, when we recall that God sent his only Son into our world to be one of us. From that time on, whatever life throws at us, Jesus has been there before us, for the highs and the lows. The Word was made flesh and pitched his tent among us. From now on, we are never alone.

               But when the Christmas has come and gone, when all the gifts have been given and opened, when all the visits and parties have ended, happiness will fade, but the joy to which we have been summoned will remain.

               Isaiah, Paul, and John are fully aware of the difference between the two experiences. They call us today beyond happiness to joy. Happiness comes from happenings; it is the result of circumstances that are pleasant and therefore welcome. But joy is a distinctively holy and religious experience that springs up from the heart. Joy is the assurance of a faith and inner calm that is born of confidence in God. Joy remains untouched by outward circumstances and is not extinguished by suffering, struggle, or sorrow.

               So we may not always be able to stay happy with what we see happening in the world around us, and with what may be taking place in our own lives. But we can at all times be truly joyful.

               In his letter to the Thessalonians Paul challenged them – and us – to rejoice in the fact of God's presence, which was made tangible in the person of Jesus. As we wait for our full union with God in Christ, Paul counsels us to remain prayerful, thankful, and to become increasingly perfect.

               In a similar fashion, Isaiah calls us to find our joy in the healing, freedom and forgiveness that accompany our Savior. For the people of his time, Isaiah's promises signaled an end to their time in exile and to a triumphant homecoming. Today, his promises excite us with the remembrance that Jesus has ended the exile created by sin and has made possible the eventual homecoming to God of every believer.

               While we await the joy of full and final communion with God, John the Baptist directs our attention to Jesus. By his testimony to Jesus as the Savior and light of the world, John stirs us to be prepared. As prophet and herald of our salvation, John would have us be happy as circumstances warrant. However, John would also have us cultivate that authentic joy which will sustain us in every circumstance.

               Let's listen again to Saint Paul: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in all circumstances give thanks."  Rejoice, yes. But to pray constantly? How can we? We have days full of work - days of endless distractions, delights, and despairs. Yet isn't this all prayer? Every thought, action, and feeling becomes a prayer, whether offered to God in our weekly Mass, given in and through Christ, or surrendered to him in a brief lifting up of the heart and mind.

               Of course, formal prayer is important. But also important are the times when we let God speak to us as we stay silent in the divine presence.

               And our work is also our prayer. Saint Benedict said: "To work is to pray." Paul too earned his living as a tentmaker, and that must surely have been part of his praying at all times. So let us rejoice in the Lord God always, in all the things we do each day.

      [Probably from Celebration 1999 and in part from DiGiacomo, America Dec. 2008]



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    In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.