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.”

Advertisements

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.

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.

Gaudete Sunday, a Homily

Homily, Dec 15-16, 2012: Cycle C, 3rd Sun of Advent, (Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday)

Today is called Gaudete’ Sunday and you have probably already noticed the rose-colored candle is lit. Holy Mother Church is giving us an opportunity to rejoice since we are 9-10 days away from the Coming of the Christ Child at Christmas.

Along with the rose candle, Msgr & I could wear rose-colored vestments today.  The fact that we aren’t means one of two things.  We don’t have any, or we have them but are not secure enough in our manhood to wear pink.

Our readings today are filled with references to joy.

Today on Gaudete’, or “Rejoice” Sunday, we remember that though our lives are marked by waiting and watching, by penance and prayer during Advent, we are yet, a people of joy.

The first reading from Zephaniah begins with, “Shout for joy, sing joyfully, be glad and exult with all your heart”. It ends with, “the Lord your God is in your midst, He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in His love.”  Isn’t that beautiful wording?

The Responsorial Psalm continues the joyful mood, calling us to cry out with joy, sing praise, and shout with exultation.”

All of this reminded me of Father Jason Adams who had been adopted by the CCW while in seminary, and spoke at the annual CCW Advent Luncheon last Monday now that he has been ordained. He shared his faith walk from his early days in school to where he is today in his priesthood. A marvelous story…

He outlined a number of things that occurred along the way that helped him come to his decision, helped him realize God was calling him to the priesthood.

One of the stories he shared that strongly affected his faith walk was about a trip to Steubenville Ohio where he found a joyful expression of Catholicism he had not expected.

He attended an Easter Vigil Mass with four thousand people that lasted four hours, but seemed like only a few minutes because it was filled with joyful singing & praise

He knew that one of the fruits of the presence of the Holy Spirit was joy. With all the new candidates entering the Church at the Vigil Mass, with their reception of the sacraments & others receiving the Eucharist, accompanied by the beautiful singing, he knew that the Holy Spirit was present in that place. It moved him to deepen his own commitment to the Lord.

And, that is the call God places before all of us in this Advent season – to deepen our commitment to Him.

The Gospel today picks up almost where last week’s Gospel left off, with John the Baptizer.  He was the voice of one crying out in the desert, “Prepare the way of the Lord, and make straight his paths.”

John was so effective in his message that the people literally flocked to him to be baptized.  They were excited by his words.  The crowds were so captivated that they asked him, “What should we do?”

Tax collectors & soldiers, people you would not expect to be attracted to his words, each in turn, came forward asking the same question. “What should we do?”

I believe all of us asks that same question over and over throughout our lives.  We ask it in many different ways, different wording perhaps, but it all comes down to “What should I do”.

We start out as small children, looking to our parents for answers about the many new things that confront us. “What should I do?”

As we move through our 14 to 18 years of schooling and face new challenges, we look to our parents & to our teachers and ask, “What should I do?”

But, perhaps the largest decision we make is to decide for the religious life or the married life, and if we choose married life – who will be our life partner?

Interestingly, after marriage, women will continue throughout their lives to ask the generic question, “What should I do?”

In general, men, once they marry, discover that they never have to ask that question again – their wives will tell them.

Our Gospel closes today with the people wondering whether John is the Christ.  They were so impressed by his preaching that it seemed a real possibility.

John was very clear in his answer saying:  “I am baptizing you with water, (Baptism of Repentance) but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit & fire.”

That phrase, Baptize you with the Holy Spirit, has been examined down through the centuries and responded to many different ways, from the purely theological to the physical.

I think the core message in that phrase is this. John is saying if we are open to God & dedicated to God, desiring to do His will, & following His direction, we will find the Holy Spirit that we received at Baptism, filling us.  He will make us aware of God’s presence in our lives, enhancing the consciousness of His presence, inspiring us and showing us the way to answer His call on our lives.

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 they love.

Instead, we should look for ways to express our love that transcends the materialism that normally overshadows the significance of this beautiful season.

Let us remember & emulate the impact of John the Baptist who moved his listeners to ask for his direction giving him the opportunity to point to the coming of Jesus Christ. That is the very essence of evangelization.

Let us prepare to celebrate the miracle of Christ’s birth, and pray that our hearts be filled with an abundance of Love, Joy and Peace, enough to sustain us throughout the coming year.