16 December 20183 Advent

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
3 Advent
Third Sunday of Advent - Cycle C
Luke 3:10-18

An elderly person in Kansas City went each day to the newspaper box on the corner. She placed her money in the slot, opened the door, and took as many newspapers as were there. Finally she was caught. The charge was that she was selling the papers. She was acquitted. In fact, she was taking them back to her home to use as fuel. She wanted to remember what warmth felt like for a few moments each day. One third of our fellow citizens in the United States are either badly fed or living in sub-standard housing or wearing rags. Sometimes they suffer from all three afflictions. The situation deteriorates daily. Our privately funded Soup Kitchens are sometimes literally running out of soup. Incidentally, contrary to popular prejudice, the majority of our poor are white and they are children. We Americans have the capability to watch a comet strike Jupiter, but we have failed to give an old woman in Kansas City fuel for her house. Why should this tale of woe excite us this third Sunday in Advent? After all, we can already see beautifully wrapped gifts and bright Christmas trees. The answer is to be found in today's Gospel.

It grabs us rudely by the throat and reminds us that ours is a social Gospel. It is not merely a question of God and me but rather God, me, and the other person. This is so especially when the other fellow is going down for the third time. Many Catholics charge that the Church, priests, and religious are oftentimes off the mark. This is true the charge goes whenever they speak or act on the nitty gritty matters of, say, economic questions. The Church many parishioners say should confine itself to the enunciation of general moral principles and guidelines. Unhappily for these critics no one bothered to share their program with John the Baptizer or John the Disturber, as James Tahaney calls him, in today's Gospel. What can be more explicit about moral questions than the three answers given by John to questions put to him? One section of his audience asked him, "What must we do then?" In answer he said, "If anyone has two overcoats, he must share with the man who has none, and the one with an extra loaf of bread must do the same." John the Disturber is not telling his audience to give away all they have.

Rather, he is advising them to give out of their surplus. Then it is the tax collectors' turn. "Master, what must we do?" His answer was swift, "Do not rob taxpayers blind." Finally the military. "What about us?" John continues on a roll, "Hold no kangaroo courtmartials. Do not shake anyone down." This advice from this Jewish holy man can hardly be called the general principles of morality. Rather, the Disturber is crossing the "ts" and dotting the "is." A spiritual director at a seminary was admiringly nicknamed John the Baptist by the students. He not only lived like the Baptizer but also he spoke like him to them. Would anyone be tempted to give us such a nickname? I fear not. St Paul endorses the advice of the Disturber. He is writing to the small Christian colony at Philippi in Greece. It had been founded by Philip, the father of Alexander the Great, and so its name. Paul writes, "Let your generosity be manifest to all." As a matter of fact, this advice to be generous with a five dollar bill is a broken record in the letters of Paul. One finds the advice not only here but also in his letters to the Romans, Galatians, Hebrews, and in both letters to the Corinthians.

Paul did not confine himself to enunciating the general principles of ethical conduct. Rather, he was taking direct aim at the checkbooks of his followers. No doubt they were making as many moans about Paul of Tarsus as we do when people ask us for the poor. The human condition is the human condition no matter what the century. But do keep in mind that Advent is designed to give a serious electrical shock to one's spiritual nervous system. It is true that Jesus cannot be born again, but, as Tahaney notes, we can. And that really is what Advent is all about. It is unabashedly demanding, again in Tahaney's well chosen language, that we give birth to our best selves.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
3 Advent
Third Sunday of Advent: What Should We Do?

People took John the Baptist very seriously. They were interested in what he had to say. They responded to his directives. He told them to join him in the fight against sin. They were baptized. He told them to prepare for the Kingdom of God. They asked: What should we do? John answered them by tellling them to apply his message to their lives. Tax collectors were told to stop cheating people. Soldiers were told to stop extorting money. People with means, those with two cloaks, were told to share their possessions. What should we do? In the Gospel of Luke 6:36, Jesus says, "Be compassionate as your heavenly Father is compassionate." Compassion is defined as having pity and concern for the suffering of others.

We need to have compassion on those around us as well as those suffering in our nation and our world. This morning, I want to focus in on the home. The center of the home, the heart of the family, is the Mom. She needs compassion. Husbands need to have compassion for their wives. Those women with children at home, particularly babies and young children, live with the constant pressure of caring for their children. They want everything to be wonderful in the home, but feel that it is mostly on their shoulders. Christmas approaches and they feel overwhelmed with all that needs to be done to create a special time for the family. They spend so much time trying to please others that they often run out of gas. When a child becomes sick, women suffer from a hurting heart while they care for their child.

Many women hold an 8 hour job at work along with their 24 hour job at home. People tell them that they are enjoying the best years of their lives, even though they often think, "When is the fun going to begin?" They often want to scream at their mothers when their mothers say, "Stop complaining and count your blessings." Sometimes, perhaps many times, their husbands don't make an effort to understand them. Well, men will never fully understand women, and vica-versa, but, guys, you need to recognize the sources of their wife's stress and support her even if this means nothing more than a little sign of affectionate and appreciation when she least expects it. Certainly, compassion demands that a husband understands that his wife might not be at her best today, but she is always trying her best. What should we do? Well, if you are a husband, you should pray for your wife, support your wife and care for your wife. Or to be more theological, you should extend the compassion of God to your wife. Husbands also need compassion. They try to support their family very often with jobs they would rather not be doing. I remember my Dad coming home from work and often saying to my Mom, "You know, I wouldn't do this if they weren't paying me."

Many men are not as sensitive as most women, and they often misunderstand their wives or their children. When they realize they have done this, they often feel like a burden in their own homes. Regardless of their braggadocio, many men feel like they can't do anything right, particularly in the home. What should we do? Well, if you are a wife, you should pray for your husband, and let him know that he is doing his best to be a good husband and father. Or, to be more theological, you should extend God's compassion to your husband. You parents are well aware of the pressures placed on your children by school, society, and even members of your extended family. If learning were easy, then children would not have to go to school. Social pressures, learning how to deal with others, diversity, all are essential parts of their education and often are more difficult than the hardest class they take. Children, especially Teens often feel that they are not living up to their parents' or grandparents' expectations.

When they do something wrong, they fear that they have disappointed others and are disappointed in themselves. What should parents do? Parents need to have compassion for their children. Guide them in a kind and loving way, while remaining firm on the direction they need to go. Years ago a mother in our parish told me that when she went away to college, with an appointment to one of the military academies, she thought that surviving that first year would be the hardest thing she would ever have to do. Then she got married and had children. Her second child really gave her a run for her money. This child made the academy seem to be a minor battle. The child was extremely intelligent, in all the advanced, gifted classes, but found school too easy for her. She couldn't see why she had to go to school. Every morning she put up a fight. And I mean a fight. There was a lot of screaming involvedâ??so much so that the Mom had to assure her neighbors that she wasn't beating her kid every day, just trying to get her into the school bus or, most times since the bus was missed, the car. I'm mentioning this because that second child now has a doctorate. She has a successful career. The Mom now admits that number two was worth every bit of extra effort.

The child needed understanding. The child needed compassion. She needed loving parents. But her parents had to be firm in order to prepare her for her role in the Kingdom of God. When the Lord taught us how to pray, He included the phrase: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. We need to apply this to our family life. All of us have battle stories. All of us have been wronged by others, including those within our own homes. All of us need forgiveness from others. Mostly, though, we need forgiveness from God. But we cannot receive forgiveness unless we are doing our best to give forgiveness. "What should we do to prepare for the Kingdom of God?" the people asked John the Baptist, and we ask the Lord today. "Have compassion," the Lord says. Receive His Mercy, and extend this mercy to others.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
3 Advent
Third Advent Virtue: Happiness (December 16, 2018)
Bottom line: Recognize happiness as a moral duty - one of the greatest gifts you can give to those you love.

So far we have seen two Advent virtues: patience and generosity. Today we see the third virtue or strength. I mentioned last week that this one might surprise you. The third Advent virtue is happiness. You may ask how happiness can be a virtue. Much of happiness appears a matter of luck. I've know families where one child seems born cheerful while the other emerged from the womb with a little cloud over his head. The cheerful child attracts everyone while people keep their distance from the sullen child - and he seems to prefer it that way. And of course during life people have different fortunes. When things go well, we feel happy. When they go bad we become glum. So how can happiness be a virtue? The answer is that there is a part of happiness we do control and that part is one of the greatest gifts we can give. I've been a priest 47 years (tomorrow is my anniversary) and I know my moods can affect parishioners. To be a happy priest is a gift to others. When we withhold that gift by clamming up, it hurts others. Consider the effect an unhappy parent has on a home. And parents of course desire above all that their children be happy.

An unhappy child can bring never ending pain to his parents. Now I can't tell anyone how to make a child happy. But I think I can say something about how a person can make himself happy. First, we need to recognize that happiness is a moral demand. St. Paul says, "Rejoice in the Lord always." Paul commands us to rejoice. When I was in high school I learned the secret of a smile. Before entering a room think of something that makes you grateful. It will bring a smile. And you know what? when a person smiles, it makes him happy - at least for the moment. And of course a smile - like a common cold - is contagious. So recognize happiness as a moral duty. If a grateful thought can bring a smile, how much more gratitude to Jesus. Rejoice in the Lord always. If happiness is a moral virtue, a duty, that means we should pursue happiness. Like we say in the Declaration of Independence - life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. This doesn't mean pursuit of pleasure. Pleasure for sure is good. God created pleasure to accompany necessary activities - meals, exercise, sleep, procreation. If, however, we pursue pleasure in a disordered way, it brings sadness. On the other hand, to pursue happiness means to pursue excellence.

When our founders spoke about pursuit of happiness they meant it in a classical sense: happiness involves realizing one's full potential. For that reason happiness is our third virtue. It follows patience and generosity. In fact, patience and generosity provide the building blocks for happiness. By patience and generosity a person realizes his true potential. Pursuing happiness does not mean being Pollyanna. You know, put on a happy face. Life brings terrible tragedies. Deception and disappointments surround us. And any of us can fall into the blues if a dear person dies. Summer didn't seem the same without Sister Barbara. St. Paul knew suffering and betrayal. He makes a list of trials that few people can compete with. Yet he tells us to be happy always. "Rejoice in the Lord always." To drive home his point he adds, "I shall say it again: rejoice!" Turn off social media and turn to the Lord. He has a perfect plan for you today. He allows trials for a purpose. Victor Frankl found meaning in a concentration camp and he became one of the most influential psychologists of the twentieth century. Immaculee Ilibagiza discovered peace even in the horrors of the Rwanda genocide. We'll see her secret next week when I present the fourth (and final) Advent virtue.

So far we've seen three virtues: patience, generosity and happiness. The fourth virtue ties them together and makes them work. That's for next weekend when we're on the brink of Christmas. Today recognize happiness as a moral duty - one of the greatest gifts you can give to those you love. Whatever trial you face, the Lord has sent it so you can achieve your full potential. As St. Paul says, "The Lord is near." Because of that, "in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving make your request known to God..." (pause) "Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again, rejoice." Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
3 Advent

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
3 Advent
Third Sunday of Advent

Today is commonly called Gaudete Sunday; that word Gaudete means joy and joy is the principal theme of the first two readings. We don't hear much from the Prophet Zephaniah in the Lectionary but this passage is an interesting one; it speaks about the coming of the Messiah and it tells us that day will be a day of rejoicing not just for the whole people but for the Lord himself. He even pictures the Messiah dancing with joy on that great day. Then in the short reading from Philippians St Paul tells his readers that since the Lord is very near their attitude should be one of happiness and joy. He tells them to ask the Lord for those things they need and then in very lovely words he invokes the peace of God upon them. From this we can see the great concern and tenderness that St Paul has for these new Christians. The Gospel reading focusses on St John the Baptist and in particular on his teaching. His instructions are not arduous, he straightforwardly tells the people to share and to have a concern for the poor. As to the tax collectors and soldiers, he merely tells them not to extort money from the people. We should not think that these are Roman soldiers but since they are with the tax collectors we can imagine that they were some kind of locally recruited auxiliary force intended to protect the tax collectors who were universally unpopular. John makes it very clear to the people that he is not the Christ but is merely the one instructed by God to prepare the people for his coming. From the text it is obvious that John the Baptist does not know what kind of Messiah Jesus is going to be. He seems to go along with the idea prevalent at the time that the Messiah was to come as a mighty warrior and be the one who is to judge the people, hence the reference to the winnowing fan which separates the wheat from the chaff.

Of course, in the event Jesus, when he does come, proves himself to be a very different kind of Messiah. He is almost the opposite of what the people expected. He turns out to be a healer and teacher. And rather than come as a judge, he comes to seek out sinners and to reconcile them with God and their fellow man. Jesus comes not so much to judge as to save. He comes with a gentle and healing touch. He shows himself to be especially fond of the poor and lowly and his predominant characteristic is his compassion for others. This is as far away as you could get from the triumphant kind of Messiah that the people were led to expect. Jesus comes humbly. He is not carried on a mighty chariot but rather walks through the country on his own two feet. His entrance into Jerusalem was not preceded by fanfares and soldiers; rather it was markedly inauspicious, it was on a donkey and he was accompanied by a few poor people waving palm leaves. As we have seen, John the Baptist was not at all sure what kind of Messiah Jesus would turn out to be.

Most probably he believed that the Messiah would come in glory and triumph and be a judge of the people. Jesus did not turn out like that, however those ideas have not gone away because we realise that, although Jesus has now returned to the Father, when he comes at the end of time it will be to gather the nations and to preside over them as a merciful judge. On that day there surely will be great glory and the angels and all the saints will be there to witness the Final Judgement of the world. Lack of knowledge as to Christ's true character was no obstacle to John. He knew a few things; he was aware of who Jesus was, after all he was a relation of his; but he did not know precisely what kind of Messiah he would turn out to be. Yet this did not deter him from telling to people to act justly and to prepare themselves for the coming of the Christ. From this we can learn something, and it is that while our knowledge of the faith may be imperfect or even a bit sketchy, we should not let this lack of knowledge deter us. Our mission in the world is actually very similar to that of John the Baptist. It is our task to tell those around us that Christ has come to save us, that people should repent of their sins and embrace the salvation that he offers us. Lack of knowledge about the faith should not deter us from this evangelical mission.

I suppose we might call it learning by doing. The more we proclaim the message of God then the more we understand it. If we are afraid to proclaim then we will remain in ignorance. Pope Paul VI in his great letter on evangelisation pointed out that those who evangelise others are actually evangelised by them in return. He noted that those who spread the Gospel to others automatically grow in faith themselves. With this in mind we should renew our efforts at evangelisation. We should share our faith with others. We should pray together as a family. We should not hesitate to talk with others about our faith. In these ways we grow in faith and in hope and in love. The Christmas season is almost upon us. As it approaches, we become ever more conscious of the Christmas story. The mysteries of this wonderful season in the liturgical year gradually unfold before us. We find ourselves being drawn in to that stable in Bethlehem. Nativity plays and carol services draw us again to the scriptures and we are reminded of the mysteries of Christ's birth. And we are reminded too of that other birth; the birth of Christ in our hearts, the entering in to our lives of our loving Saviour. If we do one thing only this Christmas it should be to let him be born anew in our hearts so that he may fill us with his truth and love.

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