3rd S. Advent 2021: Rejoice Always!

Today’s homily is for the 3rd Sunday of Advent, Dec. 12, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here.

Rejoice in the Lord, always! Again I say, Rejoice! (clap, clap) Rejoice in the Lord, always! Again I say, Rejoice! (clap, clap) Rejoice! Rejoice! Again I say Rejoice! (clap, clap) Rejoice! Rejoice! Again I say Rejoice! 

Alright! That’s always a bit of a crowd pleaser, am I right? Eyebrows raised, hands clapping, mouths flapping, eyes glistening, both Father and Deacon wearing pink and smiles from ear to ear: that’s what the good Lord desires for us every moment, of every day. From the first moment of creation, that insurmountable exhilarating joy is all God ever wanted for us. And the devil; always trying to rob us of that joy. The enemy wants to burden us with worry and stress, and brokenness and strife, and lies. But as my good friend likes to say, “Tell the truth and spurn the devil.” Amen! 

As Zephania declares, “The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.” Live in the light. Live in his love. Have joy in your heart and say right to the devil’s face, “No sir, not today! Today is not your day. Today and everyday, the Lord is mine, and I am his, and today I will rejoice! Now get out of my way, cause I need to find my pink socks!” 

As we enter into the 3rd Sunday of Advent our attention turns to the infant Jesus. We are reminded that the God of the universe is not far off, but here, close to us and crying out for our love. But how do we rejoice when we are still wearing masks, when a loved one is sick, when we cannot run our business because we cannot find anyone to work, when we are without law and order, when bars are full and churches are empty? 

St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians and the Gospel holds the secret. St. Paul tells the Church in Philippi, “The Lord is near.” First, God is near to us always, in our hearts, in our minds, in our church, in the Holy Eucharist. Why are we worried? There is nothing in this life that we face but what is human, and our God is near. That would be like being afraid of a school yard bully, when Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson is standing right next to you! Hey, “The Rock is near,” that’s what Paul’s saying. And if the Lord is near, well then, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” That’s how we do it. Lean on the truth that God is near. Pray like a madman, ask God for exactly what you want, and give thanks for all you have. Period. That’s an amazing recipe for success. 

Hardships come our way, the Lord is near. I am afraid for whatever reason: I pray, give thanks, and let God know what I need. Boom! Done. “Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Now we get on to the next level–that’s Jesus’ level. God doesn’t just want us not afraid, God wants his disciples to be fearless and generous. You’ve got two, that’s one too many–give one away to someone who has none. And the same for food. If you’ve got some, give some. Dang, we can’t even close our drawers, and the walk-in closet isn’t big enough anymore! How much stuff do we need in the pantry? We’ve got stuff in there we’ve totally forgotten about! “Hmph, that’s weird…” Tax collectors, stop taking so much. Soldiers, stop being somebody else’s muscle. And for the love of the Lord, be happy with your paycheck! You’re making $17/hr to flip burgers! All of this greed makes us like Scrooge! Always unhappy! 

We’re not talking about what someone else deserves–that’s justice. We’re not talking about who someone else is and what they’ve done, or not done, whether they are moral or immoral, deserving or not. Discipleship isn’t about them–discipleship about us; our love, our generosity, our joy, our Lord. My brothers and sisters, this is the recipe for lasting joy: pray, give thanks, stop hoarding, be generous, and be kind. That’s it. If we want Christmas joy year round, we’ve got to make room in our heart for the infant Jesus. Is there room at the Inn? Rejoice! Rejoice! Again I say rejoice. Be prayerful, generous, kind, and joyful…and spurn the devil.

2nd S. of Advent: The Good In You

Today’s homily is for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, Dec. 5, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

As we continue into the second week of Advent, our focus remains on the Second Coming, that is, on the return of the Lord at the end of time. We focus on justice, on God’s just judgement of our soul, at the end of time–but also at the end of our time, when our time on earth is over. Today we ask ourselves–are we ready? I admit that I have not stood alongside many bedsides as the elderly receive Last Rights, mostly that is the experience of priests, but I have been at a few, and there is nothing so sweet as when a person has lived a life well, is reconciled with God and neighbor, and embraces their time to stand before almighty God to render an account of every word and every deed. I want to be ready at all times for that day, don’t you?

Today’s homily is for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, Dec. 5, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

Today the Church has good news: there’s still time! I stand with John the Baptist today proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. That’s how we will be ready. True conversion of heart. Seeking first the waters of baptism, like young Anthony Gallagher who I baptized today, and then the door of the confessional where we are renewed and brought to perfection time and time again throughout the difficulties and struggles of life where our weakness, our selfishness, and our sinfulness is so often revealed. Take heart, our Lord Jesus never tires or renewing our Spirit, reconciling us, and making us whole again. We need only but ask. 

The 1st reading from Baruch we are told to stand up and take off the robe of mourning and misery and to put on the splendor of God. In sinful behavior, selfishness and greed we wander far from God, but today we are told to stand upon the heights and watch what God wants to do for us in our life. Sin led us away, Baruch says, but God will bring us back to him on royal thrones. God “leads us in joy by the light of his glory.” God really has done great things for us; we are filled with joy,” as the psalmist says. 

Has the Lord done great things for you? Are you filled with joy? Or are there times of struggle that rob us of our joy? As we prepare to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is there not a small part of us that says, “Father, it’s the same old thing, when it comes to _______ I just can’t seem to win.” Does Garth Brooks’ song, Same Old Story seem to be the theme song of your confession? Do not lose heart! Keep praying. Keep attending Mass. Keep crying out to God for deliverance and strength. Keep going to Reconciliation. And for the love of God, keep smiling, keep shining, keep loving, and as St. Paul tells the Philippians, be “confident in this, that the one who began a good work in your will continue to complete it until the day of Christ.” Believe that. God is at work in us.

Are we ready for judgement day? Lord no! I’ve got to get my act together–God give me another day, I pray! Give me a chance to get to the confessional, like our faith formation children did last week. Give me another moment to say I’m sorry to family or friends that I have hurt or ignored, or held a grudge against because they hurt me. Give me a chance to take a second look at my budget to see how I might support a child in need, support the Wheelchair Foundation, support my local food bank or shelter, my church, or my pastor–but especially my deacon (haha). Give me this last chance to turn away from sins of the flesh, drunkenness or drugs. Give me one more day to turn away from this sin and turn toward you, my Savior, my Lord, my mercy, my love. In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar…John called for repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He cried out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths…and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” My prayer is that I, my family and yours, are able to see the salvation of God. With St. Paul, “this is my prayer: that [our] love may increase ever more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that [we] may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” Time is short. Lord, complete your work in me. Marana Tha. Come Lord Jesus.