Saturday, December 13, 2014

"Rejoice Always!" - homily for the 3rd Sunday of Advent

Third Sunday of Advent                                                         December 14, 2014
Is 61:1-2a,10-11          Lk 1:46-48,49-50,53-54          1 Thes 5:16-24            Jn 1:6-8,19-28

The third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday.  Gaudete is latin for “rejoice.”  Rejoice because our Savior is coming!  Even the church colors reflect the shift – the color rose is used to accent the sanctuary of the church.

The readings are full of the language of rejoicing.  The first reading says, I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul.  The responsorial Psalm for the day says, My soul rejoices in my God.”  The Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians begins with “Rejoice always.”

Today we intentionally take up the attitude of rejoicing – whether we initially feel like it or not.  It can’t come at a better time.  With little light during the day and long hours of darkness, some of us might be tending toward depression.  Some of us carry bad memories from the past this time of year.  A few may be dreading family reunions with those dysfunctional relatives.  In the larger world, there are events going on around us that cause great anxiety.  The teetering global economy, continued threats of terrorism, dreadful diseases, violence, persecutions, social unrest, and a litany of other problems troubling the world today.  This can be a time of anxiety for many reasons.

It is in the midst of all this that we receive this instruction from the Lord in the scriptures today. Rejoice always.  How do we really do that.

First of all, the joy of which we speak is not really an emotion.  It is a firm decision of the will.  It is grounded in the knowledge of our God who loves us and our decision to love God in return by doing his will.  This joy truly is a life decision, and not at all a fleeting emotion.  That being the case, here are two things we can do – decisions of the will – that help us to take up and live the joy that marks this third Sunday of Advent.

1.              Pray!  Keep praying during the Advent season.  We have a week and a half of preparation. Let us bring our sacrifice of praise to God by recommitting ourselves to Mass on all Sundays and all Holy Days of Obligation. Don’t skip out on it. Don’t be a spiritual lazy bum. Hold fast to the discipline of prayer. Stay faithful with personal prayer.  Stay faithful with the public prayer of the church – especially the Mass. There are great spiritual rewards for those who are faithful to prepare for the coming of Jesus.  Stay faithful in Advent.  Stay faithful all year around.  Stay faithful to Jesus through prayer.

2.              Go to confession. Receive the sacrament of Penance in preparation for Christmas.  In the gospel John the Baptist instructed his listeners about preparing the way of the Lord.  A great way to prepare the way of the Lord is with the Sacrament of Penance.  That great sacrament of healing where the burden of sin gets lifted off of us and we receive the grace of repentance. The Church asks us to go to confession at least once per year. In the same way the church asks us to go to communion at least once per year.  And, of course, confession, like communion, is encouraged with more frequency.  A good number of people haven’t gone to confession in many years.  For others, it has been many months.  And for some, it may even have been since first confession as a child.  After a long time, it is easy to feel intimidated because of it.  So here’s the message – do not be afraid.  The ritual is easy and our priests are gentle and good.  Go to confession and be healed by Jesus.  The gift of joy comes with this wonderful sacrament of God’s mercy.  And, lucky us, we are having a communal Penance service on Tuesday, December 16, at 7:00 p.m. at Holy Name of Mary.  Listen up everybody - go to confession in preparation for Christmas.  Jesus is coming!

Good people.  Rejoice always.  Rejoice heartily in the Lord.  Rejoice with the prayers of Advent and Christmas.  Be joyful with the sacrament of penance. 

Dear people, Jesus is coming. This is the best news of all.  May the benediction of 1 Thessalonians 5:24 be God’s gift for us all this Christmas.  

“May the God of peace make you perfectly holy
and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body,

be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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