Dec 16, 2018
3rd Sun of Advent
10 am & 4:30 pm
Zephaniah 3:14-18a; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:10-18
This is the 3rd Sunday of Advent, aka “Gaudete” Sunday, which is Latin for “Rejoice”. The rose colored vestments, prayers, readings, psalm & music set the tone of joyful anticipation for the Lord’s birth and for His 2nd coming at the end of time. And so in the spirit of rejoicing I tell you this story: (There was an elderly couple who had been married over 60 years who got in a car accident and they both died (don’t worry it gets better!) They had been in good health mainly due to the wife’s insistence on healthy food and exercise. When they reached the Pearly Gates St. Peter took them to their beautiful mansion. As they looked around in awe the old man asked St. Peter how much all this will cost. St. Peter said, “This is heaven. It’s free.” Next they went out back and were shown the championship-style golf course. The old man asked, “How much are the greens fee?” St. Peter replied, “This is heaven, it’s free.” And then they went to the club house and saw the lavish buffet lunch. The old man asked, “How much to eat?” St. Peter replied, “Don’t you understand yet? This is heaven, it’s free.” The old man asked, “Well then, where are the low fat & cholesterol-free tables?” St. Peter said, “That’s the best part about being in heaven. Here you can eat whatever you want and as much as you want and you’ll never get fat or sick.” At that, the old man went into a fit of anger, threw down his hat and stomped on it. The wife tried to calm him down & asked him what was wrong. He said, “This is all your fault. If it wasn’t for your low fat, low taste food I could have been here 10 years ago!!!”
My friends, joy and laughter are healthy for our souls. It has been said that, “Joy is the sign of the presence of God.” Fr. Fernando Suarez when he was here last made us laugh several times in his homily and said “if we do not laugh at least once a day we need to ask ourselves what is wrong?” And so on this Rejoice Sunday, as we rejoice because the Savior is near to us, we should take an inventory of our lives and ask ourselves, “Am I joyful?” Do people see me as joyful?”…I think most of us could use more joy in our lives, our lives that are filled with the stresses and strains of daily life. Not to mention the stress of these last few days before Christmas. To be joy-filled we must draw close to the source of joy, Jesus Christ. He is in our midst and will abide with us if we allow Him to. And He will fill us with His joy that’s not of this world. You see, we try to get our joy from things that will never satisfy us. We are all made with a “God-hole” that we try to stuff other things into to make us happy. But only God Himself can satisfy us and truly make us content. But He will never force Himself on us. He gives us free will to receive Him or reject Him. It’s our choice.
In the 1st reading from the Prophet Zephaniah it tells us to rejoice 6 different times. Why? Because the Lord is in our midst! And He has done great things for us. In the 2nd reading St. Paul repeats himself, “Rejoice in the Lord always, I shall say it again: rejoice!” Paul wants to make sure we get the point…But are we to rejoice always? Even in difficult times? Even when things aren’t going so well? How are we supposed to do that? St. Paul gives us the secret, the key, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” St. Paul is saying even during difficult times we can have joy and peace. How? By prayer. There is a saying, “When you can’t stand it anymore, KNEEL!” By lifting our cares and concerns up to God in prayer we are placing our trust in Him. We are saying, “I don’t got this but you got this Lord.” Then in turn, even during difficult times, Jesus fills us with peace and joy because we know that He is in control and will work it out. When my wife and I are experiencing trials my wife always says, “I’m excited to see how God is going to work this one out!” And He always does! And because we trust that He will we have a consistent joy & peace that is supernatural.
Now we turn to the Gospel where 3 different sets of people, the crowds, tax collectors and soldiers all ask John the Baptist, “What should we do?” These are all ordinary, common people who had heard the message from John and ask, “Now what? How do we live the message?” And we as ordinary, common people after hearing the Gospel message should ask the same question, “What should we do? How do we live the message?” John tells us to live with integrity, to treat people the way you want to be treated, to give and to share in your day to day lives (at home, at church, at work, in the market place). As St. Paul tells us in the 2nd reading, “Your kindness should be known by all.” We are called not only to good deeds but to good deeds with joy & love. When we give, when we share, when we serve it is then that we experience true joy (Jesus-Others-You)…Live your every day with joy in your heart and a smile on your face. People who have experienced the joy of the Lord cannot keep it to themselves, it cannot be contained. It comes out for all to see. And when our joy is shown we are evangelizing because others will notice, even in difficult times, and they will want what we have. Let the joy in your heart be a witness for all to see!
In closing, happiness is one thing but joy is a completely different thing. Happiness is temporary. Things make us happy for a while but then it fades: (1) Christmas presents; (2) new car…But joy comes from the Lord who is the source of joy, true, eternal & supernatural, that doesn’t fade even in difficult times.
Joy & laughter are healthy for our soul, for our spirit, for our whole being. “Joy is the sign of the presence of God!”
May that sign be seen in us and through us for the glory of God. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again, rejoice!