Gaudete, Rejoice Sunday In Advent, Homily

Homily, Dec 13-14, 2014: Cycle B, 3rd Sun, Advent, (Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday)

Today we celebrate Gaude’te’ Sunday & you have probably already noticed the rose-colored candle is lit. Holy Mother Church is giving us an opportunity to rejoice since we are 11 days away from the Coming of the Christ Child at Christmas.

On this Sunday, we remember that though we are called to waiting & watching, to penance & prayer during the Advent Season, we are yet, a people of joy. Our first few readings point that out to us.

Our Gospel today begins with the words, “There was a man named John, sent by God to give testimony to the Light.” Those first words tell us everything we need to know about John. God sent John to give testimony to Jesus, who is the Light of the world. John was a “Voice crying out in the desert – make straight the way of the Lord”.

Like John the Baptist, we too are entrusted with a mission from God. We too, have a Purpose. God has given us His life at Baptism so that we can live that life to the fullest & share His life with others.

The world today badly needs our witness to Christ. Those who have rejected Christ need to see witnesses to His Presence. Moreover, that means us; the world needs our hands, our voices, our actions…

.. because the world is poor and has need of the very Hope that Jesus brought to the world. Our First Reading today from Isaiah tells us that God has anointed us to bring glad tidings to the poor.

When we hear the word POOR we invariably think of those who are poor financially. However, there is much more poverty in this world than just the lack of money.

Isaiah says we are to heal the brokenhearted – they are poor. Those who have suffered loss so deeply that they feel as if their very heart is broken. Maybe they lost a loved one, someone they spent years with completing one another’s sentences, or they lost a job that they needed to make their way in the world.

While we cannot fix everything, perhaps, we can spend time with them, be present to them as they sort it all out again. By being with them, we can make Christ present to them again.

I remember losing a job one time that really affected me deeply. An acquaintance gave me a temporary job to tide me over that actually lasted years. Not only did it supply money to live on, but in the grander scheme of things, it also gave me a place in which to heal & begin again. The impact of his kindness was more far-reaching than either of us expected.

Isaiah reminds us that we are to proclaim liberty to captives. Captives are poor. He didn’t just mean those who are incarcerated.

We can be captive to attitudes that need to change. We are captive to habits that need to change. We are captive to life situations that need to change. Some of those things we may have struggled with for years.

Only Jesus can reach down inside of us and make those changes without violating our free will. We cannot do it. We cannot change others, but we can be present to them helping them to be open to Jesus and the changes He can bring to them, as John did.

Many are held prisoners to the results of past actions, past decisions, or wilfulness, or know-it-all-ness.

Again, we are not God. We cannot change others, but by our dedication to living the life Jesus has won for us, we give witness to others who struggle. In effect, we announce a year of favor from the Lord, a day of vindication for them as the First Reading tells us.

Our Gospel closes with John telling the Jews who had been sent to question him, “…I am not the Christ …I baptize with water, but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

John is not only describing his purpose & state of being, he is also describing our own. We all have the capability to go before the Lord to prepare His way for others.

The total body of work in the three synoptic Gospels concerning John’s whole message tells us if we are open to God & dedicated to God, desiring to do His will, & following His direction, we will discover the Holy Spirit that we received at Baptism, helping us.

He will make us aware of God in our lives, enhancing the consciousness of His presence, inspiring us and showing us the way to answer His call on our lives to help others find their way.

Sometimes that happens quickly – sometimes it evolves over time.  What is important is that we be open to it.

In these last days of Advent as we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child, let us hold ourselves above the hustle & bustle of the crowds in pursuit of worldly gifts for those we love.

Instead, maybe we can look for ways to express our love that transcends the materialism that normally overshadows this beautiful season. We can give the Gift of our time & the Gift of our talent.

A friend reminded me yesterday that the Christmas season is a good time to reach out to help others. During this season, they are predisposed to giving & receiving.

We can emulate the impact of John the Baptist who moved his listeners to be open to the coming of Jesus Christ in their lives. That is the very essence of evangelization.

So, let us prepare to celebrate the miracle of Christ’s birth, & pray that God fill our hearts with an abundance of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love, enough to sustain us throughout this season and into the coming year.