Reflections for the Third Week of Advent 2011**
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
They refer to the daily readings for the Third Week of Advent 2011.
Sunday of the Third Week of Advent 2011
December 11, John 1:6-8, 19-28
The Third Sunday of Advent is sometimes called “Gaudete” Sunday (Rejoice Sunday). “Gaudete” is the plural imperative of the Latin verb gaudere, to rejoice. We read in the second reading from Thessalonians today: “Rejoice always.”
Rejoice means to be glad, to take delight in. The idea of rejoicing goes hand in hand with the amount of enthusiasm we find in our lives. Usually, almost always, if there is no enthusiasm in our lives, there will be no joy. The quality of enthusiasm was one of the most distinguishing characteristics of the early Church. When we read of the communal life the early Christians lived in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2: 42-47), we see the great enthusiasm they had. It was all new and they were enthusiastic about their new way of living in common.
It is easy to be enthusiastic about the new. Remember when you got your first bicycle? You rode the wheels off the thing for the first week or so and when the newness wore off the bike was laying in the back yard not being used at all. We tend to grow weary of things after a while and then our enthusiasm fades, sometimes into boredom.
The word enthusiasm is a very spiritual word, as it turns out. It comes from the Greek enthusiasmos and means to be inspired. Etymologically it comes from two Greek words: en, which means from, and Theos, which means God. Enthusiasm, then, is a gift from God and brings with it a strong excitement, ardor, passion and zeal into our lives. When there is no enthusiasm in our lives, life can be a real bummer.
The Apostles were enthusiastic at first when they were called by Christ, but they became weary too. We see this when Jesus was transfigured on Mount Tablor. Jesus took Peter, James and John up the mountain with him and when they got there they fell asleep! (Luke 9: 28-36). Not a whole lot of enthusiasm in that. We, too, like the disciples, become weary and fall asleep. We allow ourselves to be bored and disillusioned. Religion, work, my family, my priesthood, life in general, can and do become a drudgery from time to time. I become bored, down in the dumps (my Mom used to say: out of sorts), negative, critical, in a bad mood, antagonistic and on and on. It happens to all of us from time to time.
The question is: What can we do to regain our enthusiasm? One way is to find a ritual that might rejuvenate you. For me, for example, that can be going to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. AA meetings are a ritual. And we all know that ritual works. We don’t know why they work, but they do. Perhaps one of the oldest rituals we can find is a mother’s kiss. A child falls down and skins his arm badly. It is bleeding and it hurts a lot. He begins to cry up a storm and runs to his mother. Mother kisses the arm and the boy stops crying. Why? Beats me. Ritual works. Ritual for you might be going to Mass, praying the rosary in a quiet place, playing golf or playing a musical instrument. We quickly find that it works!
Do a service for others. Visit a hospital or nursing home. Doing something for others gets your mind off yourself and your enthusiasm returns. Your self-esteem increases when you help others and this is good for enthusiasm. Service and enthusiasm go together like peanut butter and jelly. Other ways of regaining our enthusiasm when we lose it might be choosing to get rid of some of our prejudices, fears, addictions, habits of sin, greed, going to extremes, guilt and shame. I’m sure you all get the idea by this time.
Lord, help me to regain my enthusiasm when I grow weary so I can continue to be your good disciple.
Monday of the Third Week of Advent
December 12, Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Today’s Feast of our Lady of Guadalupe, happening as it does during the Advent season, reinforces what we’ve said before about Jesus caring for us. He cares for us so much that he gave us all another Mother; he shares his own Mother with us.
Through the centuries, the Blessed Mother of God has appeared to us many times, offering us her help and intercession. I have been privileged in my own somewhat limited travels to have visited the location of three of these places where Mary appeared to us: Lourdes and LaSalette in France, and the Shrine of our Lady of Apparitions in Rome. I even spoke with the man who was the object of the last mentioned apparition. In visiting these places, I was deeply impressed by the love and devotion of God’s people that I witnessed at these sites and by the effect these visits had on myself. Indeed, we are well cared for by our God.
Today we celebrate Mary appearing to a poor man, Juan Diego, on a hill in Tepeyac, Mexico, in December of 1531. At that time Mary declared to Juan Diego and through him to all of us: “I am your most merciful Mother. I want to show my loving compassion to all those who call upon me in their times of sorrow.”
Jesus, thank you for the gift and care of your Mother for each of us.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.
Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent
Dec. 13, Mt. 21: 28-32
“Yet, even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”
I see the Gospel reading for today telling us that if we make a wrong choice, if we do the wrong thing and then realize that’s what is happening, it is OK to change our minds. The first son in today’s Gospel made a wrong choice in refusing to do what his father asked of him, but when he realized that he changed his mind and made the right choice. Nothing wrong with that at all – to change from the wrong to the right. The other son made the correct choice to begin with and then changed it to the wrong choice. And we all know that will not fly!
The 10th Step of the 12 Steps of Spirituality has this same idea in it. It reads: “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.” And with the admission presumably comes a change to the right way. This is exactly what John the Baptist is talking about when he tells us to repent. To repent is to change a bad choice into a good choice – to make that U turn we have spoken of so often.
Let today’s Gospel bring us to reflect on whether we have made any bad choices lately that need to be changed to right choices.
Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent
Dec. 14, Luke 7: 18-23
Today’s Gospel selection for our daily Advent Liturgy is St. Luke’s rendition of the Gospel from St. Matthew in which we are encouraged not to settle for the lesser but to choose the greater, to serve the Master rather than the servant.
We serve the Master by doing the things of the Master. We serve Jesus by helping others, by being caring and compassionate, by helping those who are blindly going in the wrong direction to somehow choose the right direction by our example, communicating a feeling instead of a judgment, or by sharing a personal experience where we made the same mistake, by helping others to walk where they are afraid to tread (surrendering to God), by telling them what we have seen and heard and learned about how to experience a happy, joyful and peaceful life.
Let’s share the goodness we have learned with others who are still laboring in ignorance. To paraphrase the Scriptures: No greater love do we have for another than to give and share ourselves with them.
Thursday of the Third Week of Advent
Dec. 15, Luke 7, 24-30
“All the people who listened, including the tax collectors, who were baptized with the baptism of John, acknowledged the righteousness of God; but the Pharisees and scholars of the law, who were not baptized by him, rejected the plan of God for themselves.”
The Gospel passage just cited above tells us that some people listen and learn while others do not listen and go on, usually, in their own mistaken and ignorant way. Listening is one of the keys to learning. It is also one of the keys to change what we just spoke about above. It is rather self-evident that if I never let the winds of newness or new ideas come over me, I’ll never really learn anything more. I will be stuck with what I have. There will be no possibility of advance or progress. And this is a sad situation for anyone to be in.
A good illustration of what we are talking about is a closed fist. If you close your hand to make a fist, there is no light inside the fist on the palm of the hand. It is dark in there! To get the light to shine on the palm, I must open my hand and let the light shine in. This Gospel is a good one for us to reflect on about how we are with our own ideas and opinions about things. Are we closed to the ideas and opinions of others? Do we just shut them out by saying I’m right and you’re wrong? Or are we open to others and thereby open to the possibility of truth in place of error? The one is growth-filled, the other puts us on stand-still. Where do we see ourselves in this regard?
Friday of the Third Week of Advent
December 16, John 5: 33-36
In today’s Gospel Jesus gives the people who have rejected him his credentials, as it were, the reasons they should believe in him. He preaches the same message preached by John the Baptist. John was his herald, the burning lamp preceded Jesus. Jesus was the one the Jewish people were waiting for. His miraculous deeds show he came from the Father of all. Yet, the people persist in their disbelief.
The world is still pretty much the same. There are many who still do not believe Jesus is the Son of God, the Anointed One who is to come. They do not accept the way, the truth and the life. Once again, as we have remarked before, the proof is in the pudding. If all of those who do not believe would only act as if they did believe for a while, put their trust and faith in Jesus and imitate his ways of love, forgiveness and service to others, they would prove to themselves that he is who he says he is, the Son of the Father.
Lord, give us the wherewithal to increase the faith of those who do not believe.
Saturday of the Third Week of Advent
Dec. 17, Mt. 1: 1-17.
Today, December 17, begins the Octave before the Feast of Christmas and these eight days are a very special time in the Liturgy of the Church. There is a special Liturgy for each day. The Gospels call to mind the genealogy that goes from Adam to David. These genealogies are a study in themselves and way too detailed to get into here for our purposes. I once read, I forget where, that the purpose of these genealogies is to show that the Incarnate Jesus was truly human and had a human ancestry. The particular names and order of them really doesn’t matter. Sounds like as good a reason as any.
The Octave before Christmas, from Dec. 17 to Dec. 23, also brings with the so-called ‘O Antiphons’. There are seven of them, each presenting a different title or name for the coming Messiah. They are recited by those saying the Liturgy of the Hours preceding the Magnificat or the Canticle of Mary during Vespers or Evening Prayer. They go from Dec. 17 to Dec. 23, the 24th being Christmas Eve, and Vespers for that day is from the Christmas Vigil. The history of these Antiphons, their origin, etc., is not really known. Reference has been made to them since the 3rd century, so suffice it to say that they have been a part of the Christmas Liturgy since the very early Church.
This Octave before Christmas is very special. Enjoy it! Let it lift you and your spirits. Let’s try and attend daily Mass during these days to realize the fullness of the Liturgy.
Lord Jesus, Come! Come to your People!!!!