Homily — 3rd Sunday Advent December 17, 2006

Homily — 3rd Sunday Advent  December 17, 2006

third sunday advent 

 Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again:  rejoice! . . . .The Lord is near.

  Today’s readings, prayers, liturgical vestment colors, Advent Candles, music and flowers around the altar all convey to us the same God sent message Gaudete!  Rejoice!  The Lord is near.

 This Gaudete Sunday message is a crucial one for us in our Advent preparation for the Great Feast of Christmas, now only one week away.

 Two Sundays ago, you will recall how Jesus in the Gospel of the first Sunday of Advent told us to be vigilant. . . .and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent before His coming.

 Today, two weeks later, those tribulations Christ warned us of are no longer imminent, you and I are being bombarded by them as we speak — from minor tribulations like “I’m never going to get all my Christmas shopping done” to major tribulations like “how am I going to get through Christmas Season with all the stuff that’s going on in my personal life lately?” 

 And yet, in the midst of all these tribulations, God commands us children of His to rejoice — or rather
(for most of us probably) to Re-joice.

 The Advent exhortation to re-joice is similar to the Lenten exhortation to Re-pent.  Whereas in Lent we focus on turning away from sin and returning back to God’s commandments, in Advent we focus on turning away from despair and returning back to God’s joy.

 And maybe in some ways, re-joicing, turning back to the Joy of the Lord, is just as difficult as re-penting of our sins.  In some circumstances, rejoicing seems next to impossible.   But as the Archangel Gabriel tells Mary at the Annunciation:  Nothing is impossible for God.

 Christian Joy, like Christian Faith, is a supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit (in fact, Jesus equates the Joy He will give after the resurrection with the Holy Spirit!).  All we need is a humble and contrite heart, recognizing our need for it, and this Joy will be ours no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.

 And you know, just as God sometimes allows our Faith to be put to the test, in order to strengthen that Faith, so also does God sometimes allow our Joy to be put to the test, in order to strengthen that Joy.

 When Jesus at the Last supper spoke about the Joy He was going to give His disciples after He rose from the dead, He said No one will (be able to) take (this) Joy from you.  Not persecution, not separation or estrangement from loved ones, not long dark winter nights, not anxiety about getting everything ready for the holidays.

 Perhaps if we are still having problems re-joicing, we should recall the joy of the saints despite their many trials:  St. Lawrence the Deacon and St. Thomas More were so joyful that they both cracked jokes while they were being martyred for the faith (I’m done on this side–turn me over.  Don’t cut off my beard when you cut off my head). 

 St. Maximillian Kolbe managed to keep himself and his fellow condemned inmates joyful in a cramped hellish starvation bunker at Auchwitz by singing hymns to God.  Some of those hymns were probably Polish Christmas Carols — a good way to re-joice.

 And finally, the martyr St. Perpetua, while in the arena, was so full of the joy of the Lord that she didn’t even notice that the beasts had been set loose on her until St. Felicity and company pointed out her wounds to her afterwards. 

 And so my brothers and sisters, in the midsts of our current pre-Christmas tribulations, whether severe or mild, may we re-joice in the Lord always for the Lord is near and He has come to save sinners and bring hope to the despairing, and that’s me and you.

 May our kindness as disciples of Christ be known to all.  May we not be anxious at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition and with Thanksgiving may we make our requests known to God.  

 Then the peace and joy of God, that surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus as we “wait in joyful hope” for His coming to us on Christmas Night.

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