Prepare The Way Of The Lord, a Homily

Homily, Dec 16 & 17, Cyc B, 3rd Sunday of Advent, Gaudete

The Third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word for rejoice and that is the message of the readings and the prayers for the Mass today.

And, it is also the reason the Advent wreath candle is pink, and Msgr is wearing pink vestments. These are a reminder that it is a time of joyful expectations for the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas.

In our First Reading from Isaiah we hear the prophet say; “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives…

…and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord, and a day of vindication by our God.” Isn’t that a mouthful? It certainly has something in there for everyone.

And, these words from Isaiah were also read by Jesus from the scroll of Isaiah in the Synagogue of Nazareth in what we could call His first public sermon.

As Christians today, we are called to spread those same words of Isaiah. In Baptism we are anointed, we are expected to bring joy and glad tidings to the poor, news that God knows their plight and will care for them through His people here on earth, that would be us, the Church.

We are to tell the broken-hearted that God hears their cry. If they are mourning the loss of a loved one, they need to hear that their loved one will live with Him forever, and they will join them later.

If their hearts are broken by other life events, the loss of a job, the loss of a marriage, or any event that makes them feel abandoned by the world and alone and isolated in society, they need to hear that Jesus is the ‘mender of broken hearts.’

If they are held captive or dominated by others or perhaps by their own weaknesses or addictions, they need to know that Jesus wants to supply freedom to them. They do not have to spend the rest of their lives as victims. With Jesus they can become victors – not victims.

It is up to us to help people accept that victory that Jesus offers them. We do this by sharing our joy and our story with them. Remember the words, “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul.”

Well, in an environment of joy, incredible things can happen. We can go from one extreme to another in the blink of an eye. Just like the song says, “I was lost, but now I am found.” His Grace is Amazing & it is enhanced by an atmosphere of joy.

As we listened to the Gospel today from John, we heard the mission of John the Baptist questioned. He was having a great effect on the people, with droves of them going out to him in the desert to be baptized, and the authorities wanted to know just who he was.

The Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask John the Baptist, “Who are you?” John answered that he wasn’t the Christ, which they were glad to hear because he sure wasn’t what they wanted as a messiah. He wasn’t Elijah, which they also were glad to hear, because from the OT they knew that Elijah would come back right before the coming of the Messiah. Whew, they dodged that bullet.

Yet they badgered him again, asking, “Who are you, so we can report back to those who sent us.” This time he answered, “I am the voice of one crying in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”

Doesn’t that sound like a Mission Statement? Yes, it does. “Make straight the way of the Lord” is another way of saying, “Prepare the way of the Lord,” the whole theme of Advent.

And, thirty years before that, when John was brought to the temple for his circumcision eight days after his birth, after all the family haggling over his name, His father, Zechariah, insisted on the name John, and then prophesied over his son the famous canticle.

Zechariah’s Canticle ended with, “And, you my child, shall be called prophet of the most high; for you shall go before the Lord to prepare straight paths for Him.

So, here’s John thirty years later fulfilling his Mission Statement that his father gave him as a newborn.

John the Baptist was faithful to his mission statement.

You know what, his mission is also our own.

We are to prepare the way of the Lord, at every opportunity. By our words and actions, we are to prepare others to be open to the Lord’s encounter with them. We are to make it easier for them to hear Him.

All throughout our lives we have these little awakenings brought on by some word or action of others that are meant to prepare us, so we don’t miss it.

One of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to whisper promptings in our hearts, or call attention to the words of others that are germane to us. That is His way of leading and guiding us while still respecting our free will. We are free to respond to those or not.

I really believe that God is so serious about trying to improve our relationship with Him and understanding of Him that He seems to choreograph these little opportunities. Some we get and some we miss. But every one of us sitting here today can look back over our lives and see times when we heard or saw something that changed how we thought about the Lord. Maybe a phone call at just the right moment, and we knew in our heart of hearts that it was the Lord.

We can be a conscious part of this process, by viewing our mission in this world as one who goes out of our way to prepare the way of the Lord for others, just like we have had our own lives awakened and prepared.

I think we would be more willing to reach out if we weren’t afraid that we shouldn’t infringe on others. Well, I can assure you there are plenty who are out there selling the negative side of every issue.

So, as Christians with the ministry to help others, speak up.

The Christmas season with it’s gathering of family and friends provides many opportunities to share our joy, share our story, at least share last year’s update to our story, share God’s love to all we meet.

“Rejoice always…In all circumstances give thanks…Be careful not to quench the Spirit working in us, as we prepare the way of the Lord.”

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Advent Week 3: Reflections

Advent Week 3: Reflections from the House of Studies

By: Brother Nicholas Reynolds, O.P.
Advent_3
Rejoice!…
“The blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”
It’s Gaudate Sunday! We, as a people, have been waiting in the dark, waiting with hope for the coming of the Lord, and it’s almost dawn as Christ the eternal Sun begins to emerge and rise before us. Rejoice!
In the reading from Genesis, The people of Israel have such hope and trust in God. Here them echo, “The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song….Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!”
Be Joyful? The desert will exult? The last time I heard the Sahara was still a desert. The last I heard, wars ravage our world.  The eyes of the blind will be opened? The lame will leap like a stag?  Be Joyful? You have got to be joking!? We can only imagine what was going on in the era in which Genesis was written, but they had hope and patience. Even though they would never see that day, they saw the day they longed for in their hearts.

Jesus fulfills the promise we hear in Genesis. “The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” The day has come to the Jewish people. For us as Christians, as we continue to wait for Christ in His birth this Christmas and His second coming, we wait with hope for the coming of that day, but that day is here and that day is now, for that day is already within us. At the end of every mass the priest or deacon using one of the dismissal options exclaims, “Go and proclaim the Gospel with your life.”

The day is now for us. We are not prophets of the future, but prophets of the moment. Open the eyes who are blind to God’s presence. Make the lame leap for joy as you let them know they are still beloved children of God. Open the ears of those who need to hear God’s mercy. Raise the dead hearts of those who have lost hope in God. Finally, proclaim the Good news to those who are poor and in need of nourishment.

Have hope, for the day that we’ve all wished to see is now, before us, among us, and within us.
 
Have hope, for without hope there is no joy, and be joyful that you might be a light for others as we wait for Christ to fulfill our hopes for healing and peace.