Isaiah 61:1-2A, 10-11; Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28
My homily at the 5:00 Mass today at Holy Ghost Church.
Just one more week and it will be Christmas eve! Wow! Where has the time gone? It doesn’t help that Advent is only 3 weeks long this year, with the 4th Sunday of Advent falling on Christmas eve day. This leaves us very little time to prepare for Christmas.
Since we have such relatively little time to prepare this year, just how are we making the most of this Advent season, the time we should be preparing ourselves to welcome the Son of God into our midst?
Are we preparing our hearts or are we so busy preparing the material things we associate with Christmas that we’ve forgotten to take time each day to reflect on God’s love for us? Have we taken the time to reflect on what we can do for Him this Advent?
Today is Gaudete Sunday. You know it’s different from other Sundays in Advent because our pastor is wearing his rose (I won’t say pink) vestments. Only two times a year does the Church allow clergy to wear the rose color. Gaudete is the Latin word for REJOICE, the message of the readings and the prayers of today’s Mass.
Isaiah tells us in today’s first reading: “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul.”
In the second reading, St. Paul tells us to “Rejoice always!” This all sounds good, but just how in the world do we rejoice when there is so much to do and so much bad news in the world around us? The wildfires in California are raging and thousands are losing their homes, we regularly hear of terrorist attacks somewhere in the world, while celebrities and Hollywood moguls are being outed for totally inappropriate behavior. It goes on and on.
Closer to home, we have gifts to purchase, crowds at the Mall, traffic jams, meals to prepare, planes to catch, in-laws to deal with and memories of loved ones who have gone to their eternal rest who no longer share Christmas-time with us. Perhaps we are facing health challenges, within ourselves or in a loved one, or maybe an important relationship is suffering?
Yes, this can be a very stressful time. How in the world can we be joyful when all these things are going on around and within us? The secret to being truly joyful is actually quite simple. JOY COMES FROM KNOWING AND SERVING JESUS.
It comes from believing that Jesus is ALWAYS with us, in spite of the trials, difficulties and self-imposed suffering we experience. St. Paul is not speaking of happiness, which comes and goes based on the circumstances of our lives. He’s not speaking of the warm, fuzzy feeling we get when everything seems to be going our way.
No, Paul is speaking of the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit that assures us that no matter what the circumstances of our life, Jesus loves us and is with us through it all. Joy is one of nine fruits of the Holy Spirit that comes from that deeply held assurance of God’s love for each and every one of us. Joy can be ours regardless of the circumstances of life that come our way.
We have just one more week to finalize our preparations for the coming of our Lord as the infant in the manger. Listen to the urgent message of REPENTANCE from John the Baptist in today’s gospel: “make straight the way of the Lord!”
Just what can we do to make our way straight in this final week before Christmas? How can we get in touch with the deep JOY that is in each of us at this hectic time of the year? Allow me to offer the following suggestions:
PRAY – Pray more often this week and pray from the heart. Promise to spend time in prayer at the moment of your rising, even if it means having to rise 15 minutes earlier than usual. St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading to pray without ceasing! Always be aware of God’s presence in your life and treat everyone you meet with respect and love. This is how we can pray without ceasing.
GIVE THANKS – Paul tells us to give thanks in ALL circumstances. Everything happens for a reason and we must thank God that he is forming us through all the circumstances of our lives, both good and bad. In the moment we may not understand why the trials we face are happening, but we can trust that God will bring good out of them all. Give thanks for the gift of life, no matter how difficult it might be at times.
DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF – Is anyone else here a perfectionist? I’m really bad about this, just ask my wife. I fret over things that mean very little in the greater scheme of things. I get upset when things don’t go as I think they should. Christine is always reminding me that I shouldn’t get so worked up over things that are really not important, and she’s right. Neither should you.
ATTEND DAILY MASS THIS WEEK – Start your day with the Eucharist to renew God’s gift of grace in your life and prepare yourself to embrace the challenges of the day with the joy that comes from the power of the Holy Spirit within you.
GO TO CONFESSION BEFORE CHRISTMAS – Examine your conscious during your time of prayer this week and bring your offenses to God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Even if you are not aware of having committed a mortal sin, a good confession will increase the grace you are able to receive in the Eucharist.
ADORE JESUS IN THE BLESSED SACRAMENT – Perhaps come to the 6:30 Mass one day this week and stay for confession and Eucharistic Adoration. Fr. Dowling is available to hear confessions every weekday between the 6:30 and 8:00 morning Masses. The Blessed Sacrament is also exposed at this time. Weekday mornings are a such great time to receive a triple blessing from receiving the Eucharist, making your Confession and spending time with the Lord in Adoration. What an amazing way to start your day and prepare for Christmas!
FORGIVE OTHERS – Think about those who may have offended you, who have trespassed against you. Forgive them. Reach out to them. Embrace them. Remember the Lord’s Prayer that our trespasses are forgiven AS we forgive those who trespass against us.
SHARE YOUR LOVE WITH OTHERS IN SELFLESS AND HUMBLE SERVICE – As St. Teresa of Calcutta would always say, “do small things with great love.” Let us prepare ourselves to welcome the Christ child into our own lives by reminding ourselves that we are called to be the means of bringing Jesus into the lives of others. Go out of your way this week to do something extra for someone who needs to be touched by God’s love. Pray about how you can be the conduit of that love this week, and be it.
Use your time wisely this week. Remember that every minute we have been given, indeed every breath we take, is a gift from God to use to prepare our hearts for his coming. Don’t waste this precious time on things that don’t matter. Use the time you have been given to make a difference for Christ in the world and in the lives of those who need him so desperately.
If you make it a priority this week to prepare for the coming of the Divine Infant, you will undoubtedly experience great joy this Christmas. Your heart will indeed be ready to welcome the King of kings and your Christmas this year will be the best Christmas ever.
God bless you.