Deacon Cornell’s Homily


Zephaniah 3:14-18a
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:10-18


December 12-13, 2015, Third Sunday in Advent, Cycle C

Brothers and Sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.

Today we gather to celebrate on what has long been known as Gaudete Sunday - Rejoice Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word for Rejoice and so today's celebration takes its name from those words from the letter to the Philippians that make up the opening hymn called the Introit. And this year, Cycle C, we have that whole passage from Philipians that the introit is taken from.

That introit and the second reading are pretty emphatic in commanding us to rejoice. I am going to go out on a limb and guess that many of you hear that and want to respond with: Are you crazy? Do you know what my life is like right now? I understand that feeling, and if truth be told, often share it. But the other two readings we just heard, and in fact what we are gathered for here today, as we do every week, give us some good reasons for rejoicing, even if life around us seems to be chaotic and full of challenges.

Advent itself is not a penitential season; it is a rejoicing season. We sometimes get fooled by the absense of the Gloria and the same purple color as Lent but it is a season of joyful anticipation. Joyful anticipation: that might sound like an oxymoron to some. Anticipation can get very stressful, squeezing out all rejoicing. "Daddy are we there yet?" is not a cry of joy! The reading from Luke gives us some insight into this.

To tell you the truth, I think these two sections should be read in reverse order. The people are filled with expectation for the Messiah. They long to be freed from the oppression of the Romans and their hard lives. In that second section, John makes it clear to them that he is not the expected Messiah but he tries to lead them from anxious anticipation to joyful, or at least hopeful, anticipation. The promised Messiah is near. And as part of his exhortation, his preaching the good news, the first part tells the people what they should do while they wait. John explains that they are not being called to do anything drastically different; but reading between the lines, they are, and we are, being called to do what we are already doing differently. John does not tell anyone they have to change jobs or go off to be missionaries or prophets. They are to continue to be tax collectors and soldiers and ordinary people but they are to do that with love and mercy, instead of selfishness and greed.

In terms of our culture, John is telling us to stop chasing the almighty dollar, to look around for who we might help rather than spending all our energy and focus on what more we might gain for ourselves. And this is not just to keep busy while we are waiting, anticipating. By following John's advice, we actually make the coming of Christ happen more quickly. Not by speeding up Christ but by slowing us down and acting in a way that will let us see that the Lord your God is in your midst. Indeed the Lord is not only near, He is in our very midst.

The Church gives us the Advent season to invite us to slow down, especially in the midst of our culture's push to get crazy this time of year, so that we can start to see that Christ is in our midst, and that by acts of love and kindness and mercy, we can put down our anxiety and let our hearts and minds be taken over by that peace of God that surpasses all understanding.

I will just finish by giving you two very specific ways to do this. The first is to take time this week to read the birth narrative of Jesus in the first 2 chapters of Luke's Gospel. It should not take you more than 15-20 minutes. If you have children, read it to them, or have them read it to you. Then take 15 more minutes to sit and reflect on it.

The second is to really enter into this prayer of thanksgiving we call Eucharist. Put down, mentally, all the demands and distractions and pray the prayers as Fr. Walter prays them for us, or as we pray them with him. Focus on Christ coming to us in the sacrament of his Body and Blood, and then become aware of Christ present in you and those around you.

Brothers and Sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.

homily index