Introduction: The third Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudete Sunday” because the Mass for today (in its original Latin text), begins with the opening antiphon: “Gaudete in Domino semper” –“Rejoice in the Lord always.” To remind ourselves that we are preparing for the very joyful occasion of the birth of Jesus, we light the rose candle in the Advent wreath, and the priest may wear rose vestments. The common theme of the day’s Scripture readings is one of joy and encouragement. The readings urge us to make the preparations required of us as we await the rebirth of Jesus in our hearts and lives. Holy Scripture reminds us that the coming of Jesus, past, present, and future, is the reason for our rejoicing. (+ one anecdote)
Scripture lessons: The Prophet Isaiah, in the first reading, encourages the Jewish exiles returning from Babylon to rejoice because their God, Yahweh, is their strong Guide, Provider and Protector. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Luke 1:46 ff.) Mary rejoices in the great blessing given to her, exclaiming: “My soul glorifies the Lord; my spirit finds joy in God my Savior.”
St. Paul, in the second reading, advises the Thessalonian Christians to “rejoice always” by leading blameless, holy and thankful lives guided by the Holy Spirit, because Christ’s second coming is near, and he is faithful in his promise to reward them.
Today’s Gospel tells us that John the Baptist came to bear witness to Jesus as the Light of the world. The Baptizer wants all the Jews to rejoice because the long-expected Messiah, as the light of the world, will remove the darkness of sin from the world. We rejoice at the humility of John the Baptizer, who tells the Sanhedrin members challenging him that he is unworthy even to become the slave of Jesus the Messiah. We also rejoice in the sincerity and commitment of John who spent himself completely in preparing people for the long-awaited Messiah. We have an additional reason to rejoice because, like John the Baptizer, we, too, are chosen to bear witness to Christ Jesus, the Light of the world.
Life message: 1) We need to bear witness to Christ the Light. Our mission, as brothers and sisters of Christ and members of his Church, is to reflect Christ’s Light to others, just as the moon reflects the light of the sun. It is especially important during the Advent season that we reflect Christ’s sharing love and his unconditional forgiveness through our lives. There are too many people who live in darkness and poverty, and who lack real freedom because of their evil addictions and bad choices. There are others who are deafened and blinded by the cheap attractions of the world. Many others feel lonely, unwanted, rejected, and marginalized. Let us bring the true Light of Christ to illumine the lives of all these brothers and sisters during this Advent season through our sharing love, overflowing mercy, unconditional forgiveness, and humble service. We will be able to accomplish this witnessing mission of radiating Christ’s Light only by repenting of our sins, asking God’s pardon every day, and by renewing our lives through our daily prayers, by frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation, by attending and taking part in the Eucharistic celebration, by reading the Bible daily in meditative, prayerful fashion, and by performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy where we see these are needed.
ADVENT III (Is 61:1-2a, 10-11; I Thes 5:16-24; Jn 1:6-8, 19-28)
Homily starter anecdotes: #1: “Have You Ever Heard John Preach?” As Rev. Fred Craddock once asked, “Have You Ever Heard John Preach?” John the Baptizer was easily the most famous preacher of his generation. The historian Josephus once wrote that in his estimation, this man John was a vastly more important and impressive figure than his cousin Jesus. Even years after Jesus’ death and Resurrection, when the apostles visited the city of Ephesus to proclaim the Gospel, they ran across a large building that called itself “The First Church of John the Baptizer.” The members of this congregation had all been baptized in the name of John. When the apostles inquired if they had been baptized in the name of Jesus, the people replied, “Who’s that? Never heard of him.” Years earlier it was John, not Jesus, who got King Herod’s attention and was consequently arrested and eventually executed by that monarch. Once Jesus began to make a bit of a stir himself, Herod’s first reaction was to say, “That must be John again! He’s back from the dead!” Most scholars believe that the Gospel of John, as written by John the Apostle, places Jesus in the correct perspective, assigning to John the Baptist the role of a witness and forerunner. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
# 2: St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) and Advent joy: Through her ministry in Jesus’ name, Mother Teresa brought untold blessings and joy to the poor who lay unattended and forgotten on our streets. When asked the source of her joy, Mother Teresa replied: “Joy is prayer — joy is strength — joy is love — joy is a net of love. . . A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love . . . loving as He loves, helping as He helps, giving as He gives, serving as He serves, rescuing as He rescues, being with Him twenty-four hours, touching Him in His distressing disguise.” (Malcolm Muggeridge, Something Beautiful for God, Harper and Row, San Francisco: 1971). When Advent arrived every year, Mother Teresa’s life, continued to witness the joy which is true hallmark of every Christian and the rightful inheritance of all the poor. (Patricia Datchuck Sánchez). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
# 3: Valesa – a Nightmare is a docu-drama written in Poland under a pseudonym and then smuggled out of the country. It tells the story of political prisoners like Lech Walesa. Near the end of the play a prisoner priest, who usually offers a solitary Mass, is joined by the rest of the prisoners at considerable risk to celebrate the Eucharist. At this moment, the play reaches a climax with the deafening scream of crows – a Polish symbol for the Communist military regime under General Jaruzelski. The cawing of the crows suddenly gives way to the soft chirping of spring birds and the comforting notes of a piano concerto – a symbol of the optimism of the Polish people that one day their quest for religious and political freedom will be realized. Valesa – a Nightmare shows how Christ can come into our lives even in the worst of circumstances. The Lord came to Lech Walesa in a Communist prison through Walesa’s Faith and prayers, through his Polish culture and pride, through his fellow political prisoners and through the Sacrament of the Eucharist. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
4) Like a bride bedecked: When Lady Diana Spencer was preparing for her wedding to the Prince of Wales, every effort was made by designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel, and, in fact, by all the planners of the wedding, to prevent the design of the bride’s dress from being revealed before the ceremony on July 29, 1981. Of course, the other dressmakers of Britain did their best to learn the secret in advance. The sooner they could start making copies, the quicker they could sell them to other prospective brides who would want to be married in gowns “just like Lady Di’s.” Fortunately, the secret was perfectly kept. Only at 5:30 AM on the wedding day did Buckingham Palace release to the news media a sketch of the wedding dress. Probably the real purpose behind our custom of not letting a groom see his bride in her wedding dress before they reach the church, is that he may behold his chosen one in that moment at the absolute peak of her beauty. How pleased Charles must have been when he saw his bride, her natural handsomeness enhanced by this rich and dazzling garment. Perhaps he even thought of the familiar words of the psalm, “All glorious is the king’s daughter as she enters; her raiment is threaded with spun gold” (45:54). But the Church has always seen the festal dress of a bride and groom as something more than a device to please the eyes of the marrying couple. It is rather a symbol of the beauty of the souls of those who take each other in marriage. Or, if these souls are perhaps not yet perfect, their garb should at least remind them, “As you have clothed your bodies in loveliness, now clothe your souls in grace.”“… He has clothed me with a robe of salvation … like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels.” (Isaiah, 61:10-11.) Today’s first reading.-(Father Robert F. McNamara). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
Introduction: Today is called “Gaudete Sunday” because today’s Mass (in its Latin, pre-Vatican II form), began with the opening antiphon: “Gaudete in Domino semper” –“Rejoice in the Lord always.” In the past, when Advent was a season of penance, the celebrant of the liturgy used to wear vestments with the penitential color of purple or violet. To remind the people that they were preparing for the very joyful occasion of the birth of Jesus, the celebrant wore rose-colored vestments on the third Sunday. (By the way, we have a similar break–Laetare Sunday– during the Lenten season). Today we light the rose candle, and the priest may wear rose vestments, to express our joy in the coming of Jesus, our Savior. The primary common theme running through today’s readings is that of encouraging joy as we meet our need for the preparation required of us who await the rebirth of Jesus in our hearts and lives. The second common theme is that of bearing witness. The prophet Isaiah, Mary and John the Baptizer all bear joyful witness to what God has done and will do for His people.
Scripture readings summarized: The readings for the third Sunday of Advent remind us that the coming of Jesus, past, present and future, is the reason for our rejoicing. The first reading tells us that we should rejoice because the promised Messiah is coming as our Savior and liberator, saving us by liberating us from our bondages. The Responsorial Psalm of the day is taken from Mary’s Magnificat, in which she exclaims: “My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit finds joy in God my Savior.” Paul, in the second reading, advises us to “rejoice always” by leading blameless, holy, and thankful lives guided by the Holy Spirit, because Christ is faithful and will come again to reward us. Today’s Gospel tells us that John the Baptizer came as a witness to testify to the Light, i.e., Jesus. The coming of Jesus, the Light, into the world is cause for rejoicing as Light removes darkness from the world. We should be glad and rejoice also because, like John the Baptizer, we, too, are chosen to bear witness to Christ Jesus, the Light of the world. We are to reflect Jesus’ Light in our lives so that we may radiate it and illuminate the dark lives of others around us. The joyful message of today’s liturgy is clear. The salvation we await with rejoicing will liberate both the individual and the community, and its special focus will be the poor and lowly, not the rich and powerful.
First reading (Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11) explained: This section of Isaiah comes from the turbulent period in the sixth century BC when the Jews were trying to re-establish themselves in their homeland after enduring a generation of exile in Babylon. The prophet says of himself that God has anointed him with the Spirit and sent him to bring good news to those in need of it. The good news is the healing of the broken-hearted and the liberation of prisoners. Then the prophet expresses Israel’s joy at the coming of God’s salvation, using the image of wearing exceptionally beautiful clothes, as a bride and groom do at their wedding. He also uses the image of the earth in its bringing forth of new vegetation in the spring. He says, “I rejoice heartily in the Lord; in my God is the joy of my soul.” This hope for the coming of salvation finds its fulfillment in the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus. Inaugurating his public ministry in Nazareth, Jesus declares that he is the fulfillment of this passage from Isaiah (Luke 4:16-21), because he has been anointed by the Spirit of God to bring the Good News to the poor. We rejoice at the fulfillment of the prophecy about Jesus in this passage. The “Spirit of the Lord is upon us” when we treat everyone equally as brothers and sisters of Jesus, and so speak out against social injustice, denounce cultural immorality, obey God’s chosen representatives in the Church, and quietly engage in regular prayer, almsgiving, and fasting.
Second Reading (1 Thessalonians 5:16-24) explained: Paul was fond of the Thessalonians because they had received Jesus’ Gospel enthusiastically, and their example had helped others to embrace the Faith. But he was convinced that they needed the continued moral instruction which he offered them in this letter. The selection we read today contains Paul’s practical suggestions for anyone trying to be a follower of God: “Do not stifle the spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test everything; retain what is good. Avoid any semblance of evil.” He also commands us to “rejoice always and pray without ceasing.” We are to give thanks in all circumstances because that is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus. We, who believe in Jesus and have been united with him in his death and Resurrection, should be in a constant state of rejoicing, giving thanks to God for all that He has done for us in Jesus. Our joy here on earth, however, is not the fullness of joy waiting for us at Jesus’ second coming. Hence, Paul concludes his instruction with the prayer: “May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Gospel Exegesis: The context: Biblical studies made of the Dead Sea Scrolls during the past 50 years suggest that John was probably a member of the Judean Qumran wilderness community, the Essenes. This community was a group of people who had left Jerusalem a century before Jesus’ birth because of a conflict with the Temple authorities. They waited there, a few miles from Jericho, for the Messiah to come and rectify the horrible injustice they had experienced. They occupied themselves with Scripture studies and purification, continually studying, copying, and commenting on God’s word. They also went through frequent baptismal rituals to symbolize their total dedication to God’s will in living a life of spiritual purity. John’s ministry seems to fit into what we know about Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls’ community. John preached a baptism of repentance, announced the imminent coming of God, and gathered followers who, though not “official” Qumran members, followed some of its teachings.
The Biblical importance of today’s text: Bible scholars generally agree that the prologue (1:1-18) in John’s Gospel is a hymn, the overall purpose of which is to highlight the historical and theological significance of Jesus’ origins as “Word,” “true Light” and the “only Son.” Verses 6-9 introduce John the Baptist in a manner that clearly distinguishes him from Jesus – “John himself was not the Light, but he came to testify to the Light.” Some scholars maintain that the author of the Gospel may be making such a forceful differentiation in order to counter a sect of John’s disciples claiming that John the Baptist was the light and the Messiah, and not simply the one testifying to the Light. In John’s Gospel, however, recurring references to the Baptist suggest that Jesus and John preached and baptized concurrently for some time (see John 3:22-30; 10:40-42). But, in all he did and said, the Baptist always bore witness to Jesus and his Messianic identity (John 1:6-8(9). “A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the Light.” John 1:19-28 is an Advent text that calls us to remember the origins and purposes of Jesus with the kind of devotion that challenges us to be witnesses for Jesus. John the Baptizer demonstrates what it means to bear witness to the true Light coming into the world.
The why of Sanhedrin intervention: Why did the religious authorities in Jerusalem show concern for a marginal figure like John, who was attracting crowds to the wilderness and baptizing repentant sinners in the Jordan? The main reason was that, although John was the son of a devout rural priest, Zechariah, he did not behave like a priest. By his dress and diet, the Baptizer had distanced himself from the Jerusalem priests. He presented himself more like one of the older prophets who declared the will of God for the Jews. Hence, the Sanhedrin might well have felt it their duty to check up on John to verify whether he was a false prophet. The Jerusalem priests also wanted to know whether John was an “action prophet,” attempting to lead a liberation movement against Roman rule. After questioning John, the delegation from the Jerusalem authorities concluded that John was only a harmless “oracular prophet,” who did not claim to be the Messiah. Another reason why the Sanhedrin kept a close eye on John was to find out why he baptized the Jews. Baptism at the hands of men was not for Israelites, but rather for proselytes from other faiths. If he had been the Messiah, or even Elijah or the prophet, John had the right to baptize. The Jerusalem delegation finally came to the conclusion that John’s baptismal rite was only a symbolic action, a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,” a rite symbolizing purification and cleansing, a return to God before the promised Messiah arrived in their midst. Thus, they decided that there was no need to take any disciplinary action against John.
John’s humility: The evangelist John presents John the Baptizer as the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3, “a voice in the desert” calling for Israelites to prepare a way for the coming of Jesus. John in his Gospel takes special care to stress the fact that Jesus surpasses John the Baptist. The Baptizer declares: “I am baptizing only with water; but there is One among you–you don’t recognize him–and I am not worthy to untie the straps of his shoes.” There was a Rabbinic saying which stated that a disciple might do for his master anything that a servant did, except only to untie his sandals. That was too menial a service for even a disciple to render. So John said: “One is coming whose slave I am not fit to be.” John’s mission was only to “prepare the way.” Any greatness he possessed came from the greatness of the O ne whose coming he foretold. John is thus the great example of the man prepared to obliterate himself for Jesus. He lived only to point the way to Christ.
Bearing witness to Jesus is our mission as well as John’s: The idea that the Baptizer came as a witness to testify to the Light (Jesus), is found only in the Gospel of John. According John, Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12). Just as the dawn of each new day brings joy, the coming of Jesus, the Light of the world, causes us to rejoice. We, the Church, are called to bear witness to Christ by word and deed, in good times and bad—when it suits us and when it doesn’t. The witness of the Church, ironically, has often been more faithful under persecution than under prosperity. We need to be messengers who point out Christ to others, just as John did. John the Baptist’s role as a joyful witness prepared the way for Jesus. John also provides an example for us because our vocation as Christians is to bear “witness” to Christ by our transparent Christian lives.
Life messages: 1) We need to bear witness to Christ the Light: By Baptism we become members of the family of Christ, the true Light of the world. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” Hence, our mission as brothers and sisters of Christ and members of his Mystical Body, the Church, is to reflect Christ’s Light to others, just as the moon reflects the light of the sun. It is especially important during the Advent season that we reflect upon and radiate Christ’s unconditional love and forgiveness everywhere. There are too many people who live in darkness and poverty, and who lack real freedom. There are others who are deafened and blinded by the cheap attractions of the world. Also, many feel lonely, unwanted, rejected, and marginalized. All these people are waiting for us to reflect the Light of Christ into their worlds and to turn their lives into experiences of joy, wholeness, and integrity. The joy of Jesus, the joy of Christmas, can only be ours to the extent that we work with Jesus to bring joy into the lives of others. Let us remember that Christmas is not complete unless we show real generosity to those who have nothing to give us in return.
2) What should we do in preparation for Christmas? The Jews asked the same question of John. His answer was: “Repent and reform your lives, and prayerfully wait for the Messiah.” This means that we have to pray from the heart and pray more often. Our Blessed Mother, in her many apparitions, has urgently reminded us of the need for more fervent and more frequent prayer. Let us remember that the Holy Mass is the most powerful of prayers. We must become a Eucharistic people, receiving the living presence of Jesus in our hearts so that we may be transformed into His image and likeness. We encounter Jesus in all the Sacraments. Regular monthly Confession makes us strong and enables us to receive more grace in the Eucharist. Let us also listen daily to God speaking to us through the Bible. Perhaps, we may want to pray the rosary daily and fast once a week all year round, not just during Advent and Lent. After all, we sin all year round, so why not fast also all year round? Let us also find some spare time to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Let us forgive those who have offended us and pray for those whom we have offended. Finally, let us share our love with others in selfless and humble service, “doing small things but with great love” (Mother Teresa). As we prepare to celebrate Christmas and the coming of God into our lives, we need also to remind ourselves that we have been called to be the means of bringing Jesus into other people’s lives.
JOKE OF THE WEEK FOR “GAUDETE SUNDAY” — because Catholics Can Take a Joke
1) Christian home: After the Baptism of his baby brother in Church one Sunday, little Johnny sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied, “That priest said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, but I want to stay with you guys!” Father got the message, and they began to go to Church regularly… Needless to say, the family had a bit of catching up to do. But one day the Sunday School Teacher asked Johnny, “Now, Johnny, tell me – do you say prayers before eating?” “No ma’am,” little Johnny replies, “I don’t have to. My Mom is a good cook.”
2) Sign on a church bulletin board: “Merry Christmas to our Christian friends. Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish friends. And to our atheist friends, good luck.
3) (Anglican humor) What are you wearing on Gaudete Sunday, Sister?
4) Heaven and hell on your face: A drama teacher was instructing his students about acting. He was trying to get them to realize the idea that they convey the message in their faces. When they are doing different scenes in a play, they have to project whatever that scene is on their face. He used the example of Heaven and Hell. Their faces should look very different if they are talking about Heaven or if they are talking about Hell. He said to the students, “When you are talking about Heaven, your faces should light up. Your smiles should radiate, and your eyes should look to the skies. People should be able to see Heaven on your faces.” He said, “When you are talking about Hell, well, your normal faces will do.” Let there be heaven on your face on “Gaudete Sunday.
4) Text week Sunday Scriptures: http://www.textweek.com/mkjnacts/jn1b.htm
6) Compendium of Catechism of the Catholic Church in question & answer form : http://www.vatican.va/archive/compendium_ccc/documents/archive_2005_compendium-ccc_en.html (Available as book, useful for Confirmation classes))
7) John’s preaching (video)
8) Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant: https://youtu.be/P4xp5Bl2xY8 https://www.youtube.com/user/Ge
9) Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: https://lectiotube.com/
(“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B no. 4 by Fr. Tony (email@example.com)
1) “Are you OK?” There is an old story of a father who, on a dark, stormy night in the midst of the thunder’s crash and the lightning’s flash, awakened and thought of his small son alone in his bedroom upstairs who might be scared of it all. So he rushed upstairs with his flashlight to check on the boy to see if he was all right. He was flashing the light around the room when the boy awakened, and said, with a startled cry, “Who’s there? Who’s in my room?” The father’s first thought was to flash his light in the face of the boy, but then he thought, “No. If I do that, I will frighten him all the more.” So he turned the light on his own face. And the little boy said, “Oh, it’s you, Dad.” The father said, “Yes, it’s Dad. I’m just up here checking on things. Everything’s OK, so go on back to sleep.” And the little boy did. That is what the Incarnation is all about: God’s shining the light in His own face so that you and I might know that everything really is OK. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
2) Rejoicing worshippers: There is a story told about a man from Louisville, Kentucky, who had to travel to St. Louis on business. This was years ago when Christians kept Sunday as a very special day. For this man, “keeping the Sabbath,” also meant not riding the trains on Sunday. Thus, after he finished up his business late Saturday night, he had to stay over in St. Louis until Monday morning. On Sunday morning, he left the hotel looking for a place to worship. The streets were quite deserted, but finally he saw a policeman and asked him for directions to the nearest Church. The stranger thanked the policeman for the information and was about to walk off when he turned and asked the policeman: “Why have you recommended that particular Church? It looks like a Catholic Church. There must be several Churches nearby that you could have recommended.” The policeman smiled and replied: “I’m not a Church man myself, but the people who come out of that Church are the happiest looking Church-people in St. Louis, and they claim that they have received Jesus and they are happily taking him to their homes. I thought that would be the kind of Church you would like to attend.” The Scripture for today reminds us that every Sunday in every Christian church must be a Gaudete Sunday or “Rejoice Sunday.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
3) “Return of a Runaway Child.” On January 7, 1980, Katheleen drove her daughter, Wavie, to Citrus High School in Inverness, Florida. It was the last time she would see Wavie for a long time. When her sixteen-year-old daughter did not return from school that day, Katheleen and her husband, Jesse, sought help from the police, the FBI, the governor, and even from national TV networks. Jesse and Katheleen, working people, were not about to give up. They printed thousands of fliers and delivered stacks of bulletins to truck stops across Florida and Georgia. Thousands of people responded. Some said they saw her. Exhausting many of their resources, they never gave up. On Tuesday, June 29, 1982, they received a call that located Wavie in Twin Cities, Georgia. By six o’clock the next morning, Wavie’s parents were in the tiny Georgia town, overjoyed at finding their daughter. Later, Wavie told her story. She really had not intended to run away from home. But on that January day, friendly strangers had offered her a ride to a nearby truck stop–and then on to Georgia. The farther she got away from home, the more frightened she was of being punished for leaving. Each hour away from home made it harder to return. She feared the reunion. Dozens of times she had dialed her parent’s phone number, but hung up in panic before they answered. She was afraid of returning home at the very same time her parents were exhausting all of their resources to find her. [Gary Turbak, “Return of a Runaway Child,” Reader’s Digest (November 1982), pp. 97-102.] — The great beauty of the Christmas message is that God hasn’t given up the search for us. Into the world of darkness, the Great Light came to lead us back home. “The true Light that enlightens every man was coming into the world” (John 1:9). In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist introduces this “Light of the world.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
4) “Come home for Christmas”: Dr. Fred B. Craddock tells of a young couple securing the professional services of a real estate agent to find them a “home”. The real estate agent responded by saying, “I can find you a house but not a home.” The agent was right. Only Christ can make a “Home.” Yes, we can come home for Christmas, come home to the God Who is searching for us–and Who is the only One who can give us a home. We can come home to God Who can set us “free” again. We don’t have to come home for Christmas only in our dreams. We can come home by accepting Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior today. He is asking us, “Will you come?”
5) “Would you mind handing in the broom?”” There is an old story of a small boy who was asked on a dark night to go out on the back porch and bring in a broom. He was afraid. There was no light out there. And he frankly told his parents that he was scared of the dark. His parents reassured him, “You don’t need to be scared. God is everywhere. He is with you even in the dark.” So the boy went to the back door, opened a crack, and whispered, “God, if You’re really out there, would You mind handing in the broom?” None of us enjoys the dark, and if we, with all of our scientific knowledge and understanding of our world are still uneasy about darkness, just imagine how infinitely worse was the plight of primitive people. To understand the force of Jesus’ claim to be the Light of the world, we must remember just how much light meant to people in ancient times.
6) “When you got something like that on your back, you know you’re somebody!” Several decades ago, All in the Family poked fun at the red-neck, blue-collar, bigots of America through the lead bigot, Archie Bunker. On one show, Archie told his wife Edith that he wanted to be on the bowling team so bad that he could taste it! He described the bowling shirts that the Cannonballers wore: all yellow silk, with bright red piping on the collar and sleeves. And on the back, there’s a picture of a cannon firing a bowling ball at the set of pins. He said, “When you got something like that on your back, Edith, you know you’re somebody!” [Raymond Gibson, Minister’s Annual (Abingdon, 1987), ed. by Jim & Doris Morentz.] That show was satirizing the notion that a man could gain a sense of identity and importance from being a part of a bowling team and wearing a gaudy shirt. But that anecdote raises the questions, “Who are you? What is the source of your identity? How should your sense of who you are before God as a Christian shape how you live and what you do?” Our text shows us that John the Baptizer was a man who was clear on who he was not and who he was. He was also clear on who Jesus is. So he was able to point others clearly to Jesus as the only Savior whom they desperately needed. (Rev. Steven C. Cole) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
7) Prepare the way for Him! A religious sociologist, Dr. Dean Hoge, has written a book entitled Converts, Dropouts and Returnees. Very briefly, he narrates his experiences with individuals who either left the Catholic Church or had been reconverted, and what led them to make that important decision. And he found that “the happiest Catholics were the dropout Catholics” –persons who had left the Catholic Church for a time, but returned. Even more, he found that the best recruiters of dropout Catholics are the dropouts themselves. More specifically, Dr. Dean Hoge found that two-thirds of the thousands of Catholics who return to the Faith each year do so because a neighbor, a friend or a relative invited them to return. This is where each and every one of us can play a vital role in the return of many. And we could begin just by inviting them to attend a service this Christmas. We have been anointed for this very specific outreach; so let the Holy Spirit speak through you in preparing the way for the Lord. (James Valladares in Your words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They are Life, p. 13). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
8) The cutest smile of inner joy: A number of years ago, young college student was working as an intern at his college’s Museum of Natural History. One day while working at the cash register in the gift shop, he saw an elderly couple come in with a little girl in a wheelchair. As he looked closer at this girl, he saw that she was kind of perched on her chair. The student realized that she had no arms or legs, just a head, neck and torso. She was wearing a little white dress with red polka dots. As the couple wheeled her up to the checkout counter, he turned his head toward the girl and gave her a wink. Meanwhile, he took the money from her grandparents and looked back at the girl, who was giving him the cutest and the largest smile he had ever seen. All of a sudden, her handicap was gone and all that the young man saw was this beautiful girl, whose smile just melted him and almost instantly gave him a completely new sense of what life is all about. She took him from the world of an unhappy college student and brought him into her world — a world of smiles, love and warmth. — With the lighting of Advent wreath’s third candle, the rose one, and the priest’s wearing the rose vestments today, we are reminded that we are called to live with joy in our world of sorrows and pain. (HO) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
9) “Rejoice always” the Lord is near: [This is a little story from an Irish Lady]. I heard a knock at the door. Two children in ragged, outgrown coats got inside as I opened the door. “Any old papers, lady?” I was busy. I wanted to say no until I looked down at their feet. Thin little sandals, sopped with sleet. “Come in, and I’ll make you a cup of hot cocoa.” There was no conversation. Their soggy sandals left marks upon the hearthstone. I served them cocoa and toast with jam to fortify them against the chill outside. Then I went back to the kitchen and started again on my household budget…. The silence in the front room struck me. I looked in. The girl held the empty cup in her hands, looking at it. The boy asked in a flat voice, “Lady…, are you rich?” “Am I rich? Mercy, no!” I looked at my shabby slipcovers. The girl put her cup back in its saucer carefully. “Your cups match your saucers.” Her voice was old, with a hunger that was not of the stomach. They left then, holding their bundles of papers against the wind. They hadn’t said, “Thank you.” They didn’t need to. They had done more than that. They told me that my plain blue pottery cups and saucers matched. I boiled the potatoes and stirred the gravy. Potatoes and brown gravy, a roof over my head and my man with a good steady job: I was lucky. I moved the chairs back from the fire and tidied the living room. The muddy prints of small sandals were still wet upon the hearthstone. Were not they the footprints of the Lord who visited me to intensify my joy by His presence? I let the prints remain. I want those footprints there in case I ever forget again how very rich I am.
— The message in the first and the second reading is clear – “rejoice always” for the Lord is near – and the Lord will surprise you because you will find him not in the comfortable and the easy – but rather in the ones who challenge us and wake us up as those children did the Irish lady (HO) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
10) Unfinished play: Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American writer. When he died in 1864, he had on his desk the outline of a play he never got a chance to finish. The play centered on a person who never appeared on stage. Everyone talked about him. Everyone dreamed about him. Everyone awaited his arrival. But he never came. All kinds of minor characters described him. They told everybody what he would be like. They told everybody what he would do. But the main character never appeared. The Old Testament is something like Nathaniel Hawthorne’s play. It too ended without the main character putting in an appearance. Everyone talked about the Messiah. Everyone dreamed about him. Everyone awaited his arrival. But he never came. All kinds of prophets, like Isaiah and Jeremiah, told the people what he would be like. They told the people what he would do. But the Messiah never appeared until the time of the last prophet John the Baptist. [Mark Link in Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho.] Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
11) “Why are you outside?” – Not involved: Henry David Thoreau was an American writer who authored the renowned essay “Civil Disobedience.” He championed the freedom of the individual over the law of the land. He distinguished between “law” and “right.” He wrote: “What the majority passes is the ‘law,’ and what the individual conscience sees is the ‘right’, and what matters most is the ‘right’ and not the ‘law’.” Once, Thoreau was imprisoned for a night. He had refused to pay the poll-tax as a protest against the government’s support of slavery and its unjust war against Mexico, presumably in support of slave trade intentions. When he was arrested, he hoped that some of his friends would follow his example and fill the jails, and in this way persuade the government to change its stance on the issue of slavery. In this he was disappointed. Not only did his friends not join him, one friend paid the tax on his behalf and got him released the very next day. When he was in the prison, Emerson, another American writer, came to visit him. He said to Thoreau: “Thoreau, Thoreau, why are you inside (jail)?” And Thoreau replied, “Emerson, Emerson, why are you outside?” Thoreau was a great lover of truth. He suffered because he spoke and stood for truth. Emerson said in his obituary of Thoreau, “He was a great speaker and actor of truth.” Today’s Gospel presents the frankness and humility of John the Baptizer. [John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
12) Alice in Wonderland experience: When Alice fell through the rabbit-hole into Wonderland, she was convinced that she had fallen right through the earth and was destined to come out where people would be upside down. She referred to such reversals as Antipathies—though she did wonder whether or not that was the right word. Alice may not have chosen the correct word, but she was on target when it came to identify the way we feel when our world is turned upside down — that is, of course, when the reversal that we experience resembles the collapse of the stock market. We would be overcome by entirely different emotions if we had won the lottery. When she finally landed, Alice discovered that the world was not upside down, but it certainly was out of proportion to her size. She had to change, to get smaller in order to enter that mysterious world. — The Third Sunday of Advent invites us into a world of reversals, a world where the captives are freed, where the hungry are filled and where the rich are sent away empty. It is certainly a world where things are turned upside down. From the point of view of social order, such reversals could be considered Antipathies. But from God’s point of view, they are the signs of transformation. In order to appreciate the strength of today’s message from Isaiah, we must remember that he was speaking to people who were dispossessed, people in need of a message of hope, a promise of some kind of economic reversal. This same description of reversal is found in the passage from Luke. There we see that the lowly enjoy the blessings that God promised long ago (Dianne Bergant). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
13) Soap and the Gospel: A soap manufacturer and a pastor were walking together down a street in a large city. The soap manufacturer casually said, “The Gospel you preach hasn’t done much good, has it? Just observe. There is still a lot of wickedness in the world, and a lot of wicked people, too!” The pastor made no reply, until, they passed a little child with dirty linen, making mud pies in the gutter. Seizing the opportunity, the pastor said, “I see, that, soap hasn’t done much good in the world either; for, there is much dirt still here, and many people with dirty linen are still around.” The soap manufacturer said, “Oh, well, soap only works when it is applied.” Then the pastor said, “Exactly! So it is with the Gospel.” (Fr. Francis Chirackal C.M.I.) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
14) The film, Pay It Forward, (based on the novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde) has a premise that underlies the source of joy and happiness celebrated in today’s liturgy. It tells the story of a seventh-grade teacher (Eugene Simonet) and his eleven-year-old student (Trevor). On the first day of class, the teacher puts this challenge on the blackboard: “Think of something new that will change the world and then act on what you have thought.” The idea captivates the boy, who lives with his single parent, an alcoholic mother. The boy attempts to put this idea into practice by helping people, who will, in turn, “pay it forward” by helping others. The boy draws a circle in his homework book and puts his name in the middle. From that circle, he extends three lines, at the ends of which are three more circles. In the first circle he writes his mother’s name. He will try to get her to give up her alcoholism. In the second circle he writes the name of a classmate who is being bullied by the larger boys in school. He will make it his duty to defend this fellow. In the third circle, he writes the name of his teacher, whom he will try to persuade to fall in love with his mother. These are huge challenges for a seventh-grade boy. The film then shows the steep obstacles he faces in his attempt to improve his world. In the end, Pay It Forward inspires us with the possibilities of making the world a better place by transforming one person at a time through a series of “random acts of kindness” and love. The movie teaches us that when someone does a good deed for us, we should “pay it forward” by making “an act of faith in the goodness of people.” The net result is lasting peace and joy, the common theme of today’s readings. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
15) “I haven’t a shirt on my back.” There was a mediaeval King who regularly used the advice of a wise man. This sage was summoned to the King’s presence. The monarch asked him how the King could get rid of his anxiety and depression of spirits, how he might be really happy and full of joy, for he was sick in body and mind. The sage replied, “There is but one cure for the King. Your majesty must sleep one night in the shirt of a happy man.” Messengers were sent throughout the realm to search for a man who was truly happy. But everyone who was approached had some cause for misery, something that robbed them of true and complete happiness. At last they found a man, a poor beggar, who sat smiling by the roadside and, when they asked him if he was really happy, filled with joy and had no sorrows, he confessed that he was a truly happy, joyful person. Then they told him what they wanted. The king must sleep one night in the shirt of a happy man and had given them a large sum of money to procure such a shirt. Would he sell them his shirt that the king might wear it? The beggar burst into uncontrollable laughter, and replied, “I am sorry I cannot oblige the king. I haven’t a shirt on my back.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
16) Making way for the light: In a lengthy interview a year before he died, the great sculptor Henry Moore reflected on how his early years in a Yorkshire mining village influenced his later work. “One of the first and strongest things I recall were the slag heaps, like Pyramids, like mountains. There were pit heaps all over – I remember our street and I can see the sun just managing to penetrate the fog, and the coal heap at the end.” -His father, a miner, was very fond of baked apples for pudding, and little Henry had to go to their dark cellar to fetch them. He was frightened of the dark, so he used to go down the steps sideways, always with one eye on the lightened doorway. Later when he was carving deep into his sculpture, he said he always felt he wanted to find a way out, remembering that cellar. Many of the Moore’s massive, sculptured forms have holes in them, but for him the holes have their own significance: what appears essential is left out; the light is let in. To many people his sculptures are just puzzling, but to many others they have a massive dignity. In the mining village where he grew up there was always competition between the sun and the fog, between the daylight and the pitch black of the mines, between a small child and the enormous slag heaps. In his work the light always wins, the child comes to shape the slag heaps into human form. [Denis McBride in Seasons of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho.] Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/). L/20
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B (No 4) by Fr. Tony: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my website by clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at email@example.com. Visit https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under CBCI or Fr. Tony for my website version. (Special thanks to Vatican Radio website- http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html -which completed uploading my Cycle A, B and C homilies in May 2020) Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604