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Sunday Homily (Full Text)

Sunday Homily

15

Blessed Sacrament Parish

Gospel

Homily by Deacon Terry Ellerman

December 15, 2013 – Third Sunday of Advent

10 AM Service

Reading One:  Isaiah 35:1-6, 10

The desert and the parched land will exult;

the steppe will rejoice and bloom.

They will bloom with abundant flowers,

and rejoice with joyful song.

The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,

the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;

they will see the glory of the LORD,

the splendor of our God.

Strengthen the hands that are feeble,

make firm the knees that are weak,

say to those whose hearts are frightened:

Be strong, fear not!

Here is your God,

he comes with vindication;

with divine recompense

he comes to save you.

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,

the ears of the deaf be cleared;

then will the lame leap like a stag,

then the tongue of the mute will sing.

 

Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return

and enter Zion singing,

crowned with everlasting joy;

they will meet with joy and gladness,

sorrow and mourning will flee.

 

Responsorial Psalm 146:6-7, 9-10

R. Lord, come and save us.

The LORD God keeps faith forever,

secures justice for the oppressed,

gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets captives free.

 

Lord, come and save us.

The LORD gives sight to the blind;

the LORD raises up those who were bowed down.

The LORD loves the just;

the LORD protects strangers.

Lord, come and save us.

The fatherless and the widow he sustains,

but the way of the wicked he thwarts.

The LORD shall reign forever;

your God, O Zion, through all generations.

Lord, come and save us.

 

Reading 2  James 5:7-10

Be patient, brothers and sisters,

until the coming of the Lord.

See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,

being patient with it

until it receives the early and the late rains.

You too must be patient.

Make your hearts firm,

because the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another,

that you may not be judged.

Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates.

Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers and sisters,

the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

Gospel   Mathew 11:2-11

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,

he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,

“Are you the one who is to come,

or should we look for another?”

Jesus said to them in reply,

“Go and tell John what you hear and see:

the blind regain their sight,

the lame walk,

lepers are cleansed,

the deaf hear,

the dead are raised,

and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.

And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

 

As they were going off,

Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John,

“What did you go out to the desert to see?

A reed swayed by the wind?

Then what did you go out to see?

Someone dressed in fine clothing?

Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.

Then why did you go out? To see a prophet?

Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.

This is the one about whom it is written:

Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;

he will prepare your way before you.

Amen, I say to you,

among those born of women

there has been none greater than John the Baptist;

yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

 

Homily

“Rejoice in the Lord Always, again I say, rejoice.

Let your gentleness be known to all because

The Lord is near at hand.

Have no anxiety about anything,

But in all things by prayer and supplication,

With thanksgiving let all your requests be known to God.”

 

If you came into church today you noticed a few different things.  The vestments are pink or rose color, the advent candle is pink.  Today is the third Sunday of Advent and we are here to rejoice as I just read to you.

 

In the old days of the Latin Mass, what I just read would have been said at the introduction of Mass.  The first word to be read is “rejoice” and in Latin that is “gaudete.”  And that’s why we celebrate today — gaudete Sunday. 

 

Why are we rejoicing?  We are rejoicing because we are halfway through the season of Advent.  We can see a little closer the coming of Christ.  We’re here to rejoice because of what that birth really means.  You know, we think of Christmas as the birth of Christ and it is.  But the reality is, we know the whole story.  We know who this baby Jesus is and what he did — that he suffered, died and rose for us.  And that is why we look forward to his birth because that is what it represents.

 

So Advent really is a time of self-evaluation.  A time to look at ourselves and say,  “Where are we in relationship to God?   And where are we at in relationship to one another. 

 

When you look  at the readings today they are very joyful.  In the Old Testament reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah, he says,  “Look at the wonderful things that are going to happen.  There is a Messiah who is going to come.  And a desert will be blooming with flowers.  And the blind is not only going to be able to see, but they will be able to talk wonderfully.  And those who cannot speak will not only be able to talk but will be able to sing. Those people who can’t walk, they not only will be able to walk but will be able to leap — all because of the joy of our God.

 

We then go to the New Testament, the Gospel reading, and as we all know the Old Testament talks about what we are to do — and it talks about the future.  Oftentimes it’s the New Testament that fulfills what was said in the Old Testament.  So what you just heard in the reading is that there is a Messiah who is going to do those things.  And in the Gospel today we find out who that is. 

 

John the Baptist is in prison and he knows he is going to die.  He sends two of his disciples to Jesus who ask, “Are you really the Messiah?  Or do we need to wait?” 

 

But Jesus, as he always does, doesn’t give a direct answer but rather gives his answer in code.  And the code is, “Go back to John and tell him what you see. ‘The blind see, the lame walk, the deaf speak, the lepers are cleansed, and the dead are brought back to life.’ ”  Well, when they went back to tell John, John knew immediately what that meant because in the Old Testament that was what the Messiah was to be.

 

So our readings today are filled with joy as we look forward to the birth of Christ. 

 

Now I am sure all of us here are happy, but I am sure all of us would like to be happier.  And I right?  So how to you become happier — that is the question.

 

There was man who had a good job, lots of money and lots of everything he wanted but realized that he wasn’t happy.  And he said, “Something’s wrong.  Our world says if you do this, this and this you will be happy.  But I’ve got this and this and this and I’m not happy.  So the man quits his job and went out and looked for the happiest people he could find and interviewed them.  He then came back with twelve things that all twelve people had in common.

 

Now, I’m not going to share all twelve of them but I am going to share some of them with you this morning.  And I do this because, “Does God want us to be happy?”

 

You bet.  We should be very happy people because we have a God who created and loves us, and not only that — he gave us freewill and he sent his son to reconcile for us.

 

So here are some of the things:

 

Express gratitude. People are the happiest when they express gratitude.  When we appreciate what we have, what we have appreciates in value.  So basically being grateful for the goodness we already have in our life will bring a deeper since of happiness, and it doesn’t cost a thing.  We are going to have a hard time ever being happy if we aren’t thankful for what we already have.  So we might ask ourselves:  Are we thankful for what we have?

 

Cultivate optimism.  Now I’m not gong to ask how many of you are optimists and how many of you are pessimists.  But I will say it doesn’t make any difference what you are, we can all be more optimistic.  So to cultivate optimism means: failure and mistakes are opportunities to grow and learn a new lesson in life.  People who think optimistically see the world as a place packed with endless opportunities.   In our lives — when we have these valleys and hills to climb — do we make them devastating things, or do we use them as opportunities? 

 

Practice acts of kindness.  Performing acts of kindness releases serotonin in our brain.  And serotonin is the substance that gives us the feeling of contentment, and gives us the feeling of peace.  If you take an antidepressant, what does it do?  It releases serotonins.  So if you don’t want to do that, perhaps practicing acts of kindness will help.

 

Nurture social relationships.  The happiest people on the planet are the ones who have deep, meaningful relationships.  We feel happier when we have an active circle of good friends who we can share our experiences with.  We feel connected and a part of something more meaningful.

 

So where are we?  Where are our friendships?  We come to church to worship God as a body.  We are part, hopefully, of that social network.  You’ve heard this before.  We need to learn to forgive.  Harboring feelings of hatred is horrible for our well-being.  Our mind doesn’t know the difference between past and present emotion.  When you hate someone and you are constantly thinking about it, those negative emotions are toxic for our happiness.  Are there people in our life that we need to forgive? 

 

The Advent season truly brings this one out —  savor life’s joys.  Deep happiness cannot exist without slowing down to enjoy our life, to enjoy the joys in our life.  When we neglect to appreciate life, we rob the moment of life’s magic.  It’s the simple things in life that can be the most rewarding if we remember to fully experience them.

 

So Advent is the time to slow down, but unfortunately if we really look at our life — it tends to speed up.  So the question is, what can we do to slow it down, and to truly enjoy.  Not just what we do, but those around us — what they do. 

 

And finally, practice spirituality.  When we practice spirituality, or religion, our belief in God — we recognize that life is bigger than us.  We surrender the silly idea that we are the mightiest thing ever and it helps us to connect to the source of all creation and embrace a connectedness with everything that exists — that we have a loving God who has a plan for us.

 

Again, Advent is this time to look at our relationship with God, and with each other.  These simple seven things are not new to any of us.  But how often do we heed them?  When we look at our relationship with God, and with each other, are we any different today than we were two weeks ago?  Have we done anything differently?  Do we pray more, do we see the sacraments more?  Do we make special time to just be in quiet with the Lord?  Have we done anything in our own personal lives with relationships?  How are we husband and wives?  How are we as parents and children?  How are we with relatives and friends?

 

Are we spending more time with each other?  Are we asking each other what we need and then making an adjustment?  Whether we have done anything during the last two weeks doesn’t really make any difference.  We are here today, and today we can do something different.

 

So I ask if you will today, this week, spend some time and look at yourself and ask:  What is my relationship with God, and with others?  Are you happy?  Could you be happier?  I can guarantee you, we will all be happier if we make Christ the center of who we are, and we live out his centeredness with each other.

 

“Rejoice in the Lord Always, again I say, rejoice.

Let your gentleness be known to all because

The Lord is near at hand.

Have no anxiety about anything,

But in all things by prayer and supplication,

With thanksgiving let all your requests be known to God.”

 

***

Terry Ellerman is a retired educator and serves as a deacon at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Quincy, Illinois.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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