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,

Father Shawn


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.”

The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.