21 Dec Third Sunday In Advent
Father Shawn J. Hughes
Dec. 16, 2018
3rd Sunday in Advent
Homilies are never the creative act of one person. Thus, in posting these homilies on St. Mary’s Cathedral’s website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be little original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it: ‘tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures and/or the Spiritual Life.
God bless you,
Rejoice in the Lord Always. Again I say Rejoice.
So writes St. Paul to the Philippians, in our second reading today. And so declares the Church as we traditionally celebrate this third Sunday of Advent as Gaudete (Gaudaytay) Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word for Rejoice. Rejoice Sunday. The rose candle on the Advent wreath, the rose vestments and altar cloth reminds us that the supreme joy of Christmas, the birth of our Saviour is very near.
So it’s a good Sunday to meditate a bit on Joy.
Joy…we say it glibly enough. But we often have to admit…do we not?… that we think it is more a dream than a reality. Joy, as much as we crave it, can be elusive and evasive and sometimes seems even beyond us.
One big problem, and we all know this from experience, one big problem is we are tempted to equate joy with pleasure. And the two are hardly synonymous.
Pleasure is fleeting. Joy is enduring.
Pleasure usually comes with having. While Joy comes with being.
Pleasure is getting. Joy is giving.
We are tempted…frantically, tragically, wrongly…to seek joy in pleasure. Pleasures like food and drink, possessions or prestige, success, popularity or power.
Now God wants us to have joy. He wants us to have it now. And he wants us to have joy for all eternity in heaven.
And I propose that we can glean some hints on how to discover joy in the readings from Sacred Scripture today.
The first hint to discover joy comes from that expression of St. Paul… The Lord is near…“Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I say rejoice! The Lord is near.” Now do you believe that? The Lord is near. The reality is the Lord is so near that he abides within us. At the very core of our being. Our soul. That is the mystery we call grace. Sanctifying grace. Our baptized soul is his home. His dwelling. His sanctuary. He loves living deep down within us. And he will stay near, deep within us, until we kick him out by sin. Then he will come back in in a second when we repent, get to confession…inviting him back.
If we really believe that the Lord is near us, in us, with us. That gives us deep joy?
There is a great story in French history about Napoleon, the French Emperor. He kidnapped Pope Pius VI. Napoleon just wanted to destroy the Church. He took Pope Pius VI from Rome, and took him to northern Italy. He literally had him confined to a cave under guard. There was the pope in solitary confinement. No one was allowed to see him. Napoleon thought for sure this would break the pope…that it would break the Church. He thought this would make the pope putty in his hands. After some years Napoleon sent a representative to see if the pope was broken.
He found the pope very serene. Very peaceful. If not downright joyful. And the delegate said: “But you are here all alone in solitary confinement. How can you be so serene? How can you be so joyful? You are by yourself.” Pope Pius VI replied “No we are never by ourselves. We are never alone. The Lord is with us. The Lord is here with me.” Like St. Paul in our second reading the pope knew that the Lord is very near. He is within us.
And if we believe that Lord abides in us through the gift of Grace. Then joy is not far away.
There is the first hint.
Secondly. A second way to discover joy in our reading today…is in prayer…“Have no anxiety, but in everything by prayer make your requests known to God.”
Prayer. The heartaches, the worries, and the frustrations and the setbacks and the adversity and the crises of life…the sorrow and suffering…All of these can pile up and extinguish joy if we let them. Unless we convert all of those occasions of anxiety and heartache into occasions for prayer…opportunities for expressing our trust in the all-powerful providence of God.
Each of those crosses…small and the big ones need to be seen as opportunities…. opportunities to choose him…by turning to prayer not let the crosses beat you. It doesn’t take them away. It gives us the strength to bear them.
Pray and don’t worry” St. Padre Pio always said. The person of prayer will not be problem free, but the person of prayer will have that foundational strength and peace that we call joy.
St. Paul, himself, the author of the second reading wrote these hope filled words from his prison cell facing certain death. His prayer sustained him…to the point that he could Rejoice in the Lord always, because he knew the Lord was near.
A third road to joy that is very evident in our readings today is giving …self-sacrificial love. As St. John the Baptist tells us in the gospel today. Whoever has two cloaks should share one. Whoever has plenty of food should do likewise.
Now we know that this goes against the grain. Our inclination is to hoard. To be ego-centric. To be selfish. To keep things to ourselves.
For thousands of years the Jewish people had been waiting for the prophesied Messiah. And then John the Baptist comes and he says “Get ready. He’s here. He will be here momentarily.” Now this is the pivotal point of history. This is the day they have been waiting for…for thousands of years.
So they ask: “What do we need to do to prepare? What do we need to do to get ready?”
What does St. John the Baptist reply? “Well, if you have two coats, give one away. And if you have some food, share it.”…How simple to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, to give away, to share.
So I would propose to you that we have a good blueprint for the Joy that we all seek right here in our Scriptures this Gaudete, this Rejoice Sunday.
As we listen to God’s Word. Initially: Believe he is near. Abiding within us through grace. Secondly: Pray, don’t worry. And thirdly: Share. Think of others. Less of yourself.
“Rejoice in the Lord Always. Again I say Rejoice.”