Third Sunday of Advent, December 14
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 AA 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, Dec. 15
Matthew 21: 23-37
“By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?”
Authority is the power to determine, the right to control, a persuasive force, conviction. As we see, there are quite a few different descriptions of authority. In the Gospel for today, it is probably to be understood as a power or a right. Jesus was a rabbi and we must remember that. Usually rabbis did not preach or teach on their own. Rather, they continually cited their authorities for saying what they were saying. Kind of like our idea today of footnoting a text to back up what we wrote and to show it is true. Jesus didn’t do this when he preached, and consequently the Pharisees wanted to know where he got what he was saying.
We find our answer to where Jesus received his power to say what he said in the Prologue of St. John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1: 1-2). “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1: 14). Jesus didn’t need footnotes when he spoke. Jesus is God, the source of all truth.
Many question the words of Jesus yet today. Who was he to tell us what to do? I’ll do as I please and on and on and on. Jesus is God. That’s who he is to tell us what to do. Kind of reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw a long time ago: God said it, I believe it, and that settles it. Some Wisdom there, I dare say.
Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent, Dec. 16
Matthew 21: 28-32
“Son, go our and work in the vineyard today.”
In our Gospel selected to be read today, a man gave the above order to his two sons. One of them replied, “I will not,” but then he finally went and did the will of his father. The other said, “I will,” but he never did go. Obviously, it was the first who did what the father requested.
When I read this parable a few minutes ago, I tried to place myself in the middle of it, being asked by the father to go into the vineyard. At my Baptism, Jesus did say to me, “Son, go out and work in my vineyard.” And my sponsors promised I would go, and so I did. I said I would go and I went. A little bit different from the parable. And I imagine many of us did the same. But, then, after I said yes to the request of the father, I decided I didn’t want to be in the vineyard and stopped working there. I was going to do things my own way, not the way my Father wanted things to go. Then, finally, after seeing that my way didn’t work, I returned to the work in the vineyard.
Does this whole process ring any bells for you? Many of us do it this way, and hopefully we see the pilgrimage we’ve been on that we spoke of a few homilies ago. The point and the good part is that I and many of you have returned. We are in the vineyard and reaping the joy, happiness, and peace of being there.
Let us pray today that those who responded “yes”, but who are still outside the vineyard, may return.
Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent, Dec. 17
“O Wisdom, you came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and reached from end to end, and disposed all things sweetly and mightily: Come and teach us the way to prudence.”
Today we begin the final week of Advent before the coming of the Lord on Christmas. These are special days in the Liturgy. Christ’s coming is now near and the Liturgy focuses on him by a special praising of his various names. These different names of the Lord are recalled at Vespers or Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours and every day in the Antiphons right before the recitation of the Magnificat. These special antiphons are referred to as the O Antiphons because they all begin with the acclamation O. Their exact origin is not known, but mention is made of them already in the 5th century. Let us reflect and meditate during this time on the Antiphon proper to each day.
From the time of the first disobedience of God by our first parents, Adam and Eve, in the Book of Genesis, the human race floundered. They stumbled and fell over and over again as we follow them on their journey to the land of milk and honey in the Old Testament Scriptures. Humanity was in the dark, for the Light of the world had not yet come.
And then Wisdom or Prudence came into our world. Christ, the Son of God, became flesh and came to us as the Light of the world to dispel our darkness. He shows us the right way to do things, which is St. Thomas Aquinas’ definition of the word Prudence or Wisdom. Now the Light has come into the world and yet I still many times follow the ways of darkness. And I ask myself: Why do I so often turn my back on the Light?
Thursday of the Third Week of Advent, Dec. 18
“O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, you appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come, and with an outstretched arm, redeem us.”
The word Adonai is the plural form of the Hebrew word Adon and means Lord, Master, or Owner. Even though it is a plural form, it is used with a singular verb. So Adonai is most probably what we refer to as the “majestic plural.” Oftentimes it is used as Adoni Elohim and means the Lord God. In this O Antiphon we see the very beginning of the redemptive process of the human race as the Lord God appears to Moses in the burning bush on Mt. Sinai and gives him the Law, the Ten Commandments, in chapter 20 of the Book of Exodus. The Antiphon calls upon the Lord God to come and complete, fulfill our redemption.
Do I call to the Lord daily to come into my life? Am I happy to have him there? Or does the Lord’s way conflict with my way? During the Exodus of the Chosen People through the desert to the land of milk and honey, we see them constantly wanting things their way and reverting to their pagan idols. How often in our own lifetime do we do things our way and return to the idols of greed, revenge, lust, anger, material things, and pride?
Lord, how long is it going to take me, how many Advents, to accept you as my way, truth and life and become a person who is fulfilled, complete, whole and holy?
Friday of the Third Week of Advent, Dec. 19
O Root of Jesse
“O Root of Jesse, who stood as a sign for the people, before you kings shall remain silent, and to you the Gentiles shall make supplication: Come to deliver us, and delay not.”
We read in the Book of Revelation: “I am the root and offspring of David, the bright morning star.” Jesus has a genealogy as we read in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, “the son of David, the son of Jesse.” (Luke 3: 31-32). And these genealogies tell us that Jesus was truly human. Yet, before him mighty Kings are silent, they are tongue-tied and all peoples cry out to him to come and deliver them and to not delay.
There is no time with God. We are told that God lives in an eternal NOW. That makes sense to me. God doesn’t need a Rolex. God has come, his redemption is at hand. If there is any delay, if there is unhappiness, little joy and serenity in my life at the present time, it is no fault of Jesus. I had better look for the culpability in my own doings; I should look in the mirror for the cause of my unhappiness. If we truly follow him who has come among us as a man, we should be happy most of the time. Not all the time; but most of the time.
Am I truly happy today and at peace with God and myself? If the answer is no, I have a bit of work to do.
Saturday of the Third Week of Advent, Dec. 20
O Key of David
“O Key of David, and scepter of the house of Israel: you open and no one shuts, you shut and no one opens. Come and lead forth from his prison the captive sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death.”
Today’s O Antiphon refers to Jesus as a Key. He opens and he shuts. He is the Key, not us. If I find myself locked into a prison of resentments, lust, pride, gluttony, materialism, jealousy, I must realize that I don’t have the key to open the door and get out. I cannot open the door of forgiveness, chastity, humility, moderation, poverty, and a good self-image. I must rather ask Jesus to open the door for me. He has the Key. We have remarked so often in these homilies that we cannot change ourselves. God is the Changer, we are the changees.
Jesus, I am entirely ready for you to come and change me and I humbly ask you to come quickly. Open the door of peace, happiness and joy for me with your Key.