Sunday, December 17, 2006

Rejoice! (Homily for Gaudete Sunday)

Today is Gaudete Sunday—
"Gaudete" is Latin for "Rejoice";
but it’s not a request—it’s a command!

That might sound odd, because nowadays,
by this point in December,
our "rejoicing" and celebrating has gone on
for two or three weeks, nonstop!

This Sunday is a reminder of a time
when that wasn’t the case—
when Advent was more penitential,
and when people didn’t have the abundance
we might take for granted.

A command to rejoice will sound odd
to some for another reason:
For many, this is far from a happy time of year.
If your life is in turmoil, or your family is torn apart,
or someone you love is far away,
perhaps in the military;

or if you lost someone you love,
particularly at this time of year—
you may not feel like rejoicing.

So what does a command to rejoice mean?
Well, it all hinges on what you think joy is.

The prophet Zephaniah, in the first reading, tells us.
He’s addressing his people, who are—like us!—
worried about the economy and the world situation;
and he reminds them the one reason they have joy:
the Lord in your midst!

You realize there are two Christmases,
two Christmas seasons?

Let’s call them "Christmas-for-everybody,"
and the original Christmas.

As we all know,
the Christmas-for-everybody Season

began weeks ago—
and it ends on or near December 25th—

which is when the Christmas you and I celebrate,
as Christians, is just beginning.

You and I usually celebrate both—and that’s fine.
But we might want to ask ourselves—
which one do we celebrate more?

I predict there are folks who will say
they don’t have time

to attend Mass for Sunday—the 24th—
as well as for Christmas, the 25th.
For some, that’s beyond their control, I understand.

But some who won’t have time for the Lord,
will have time to get the mall, or watch football games.
What does that say about our priorities?
As I say, there’s nothing wrong
with celebrating both Christmas seasons—
unless the hoopla of the one crowds out
the holiness of the other.

Another point about what true joy is:
If you’re grieving or in trouble,
"’tis the season to be jolly" doesn’t do it for you.

But there is a different kind of joy:
God is in our midst!
"The Lord has removed the judgment against you"—
and he is coming to save us!

That joy—knowing the closeness of the Lord—
is even more real in times of trouble.
You experience it deep inside,
and you may not be able to explain it;
but it’s a Fire that sustains you
when everything else is cold and dark.

I highlight this so that those of us
who are in a mood to celebrate,
can be more aware of those who aren’t.
Give those who are suffering a gift they can use—
not happy talk, but encouragement
from the Lord who comes to be in our midst.

And if we haven’t known the Lord in our midst,
John the Baptist, in the Gospel,
invites us to know him.

If there are people around us, friends or family,
who don’t know the Lord who is in their midst—
then God is sending you to share his Presence!

John the Baptist reminds us the Gift
the Lord came to give us: the Holy Spirit!
In baptism, we’ve received the Holy Spirit:
His Fire to transform us;
His Mercy to forgive us;
and his Power to help us become
the people we long to be.

If you missed the Penance Service last week,
there’s still time—see the bulletin for opportunities.

This is why what John announced was Good News:
God is near to us; God’s Spirit is poured into us!
He will help us become the people he calls us to be!

Like John, you and I are sent to share
the same Good News with everyone around us.

That’s the Reason for the Season;
that is what makes us rejoice.


Anonymous said...

I really liked the fact that you focused on people who are sad during this time of year. So many people have experienced a loss, perhaps a loved one, or a job, or are experiencing a health problem. This is not a happy time, and to make things worse, society is expecting them to be happy.
Thank you for remembering those who may be ambivalent about this time of year. Your homily is the first I have heard or seen that has acknowledged this reality.

Diane Korzeniewski said...

But some who won’t have time for the Lord,
will have time to get the mall, or watch football games.
What does that say about our priorities?
As I say, there’s nothing wrong
with celebrating both Christmas seasons—
unless the hoopla of the one crowds out
the holiness of the other.

Amen! Padre.

The opposite is true too sometimes. People come to Mass and treat the Church like the Mall. I mean the decibels in some parishes before and after Mass is deafening.

I am taking my elderly mother to her usual 4:00 Mass a few miles away to my parish on Saturday, then I must be at the 9:30am Mass to sing our usual Latin Novus Ordo, then take my mother to meet up with my brother at the 4:00 Mass in my former parish, and finally Midnight Mass to sing again with the choir (this is my Christmas Mass of choice - midnight). It's too hard on mom to be with me as long as I must be at Church before and after with choir.

I have no problems going to so many Masses in such a short time. However, what I dread is that Christmas Eve Mass at 4:00 at one of my former parishes. You walk in and it sounds like the mall. When they get to the sign of peace, the chatter goes on what seems like forever. You hear everything from someone talking about a roast in the oven to a pair of pants that need hemming, or some play in a football game - all the while the Body and Blood of Our Lord lay on the altar. There is a mass exodus before Communion is even over, and then when it is over, it sounds like the mall again until the Church empties within the next 5-10 minutes.

This is not atypical of any other Saturday or Sunday in so many parishes today. Rather, it is magnified by those who come only on Christmas and Easter. It's good they come, but such commotion in Church is just one more signal that people don't seem to have an awareness of the Real Presence.

Silence in Church, with Him in the forefront of our thoughts, with Him on the receiving end of our words, enabling ourselves to hear Him, above all others, is the greatest manifestation of awareness of, and respect for, the Real Presence.

I keep thinking that someday a priest needs to simply kneel, facing the Blessed Sacrament for a long while and to keep doing this until more and more people begin to get it. I pray someday that I will hear the current pastor, or a future pastor, gently talk about the nature of silence before God.

Our preoccupation with each other will fade quickly when we behold the face of God. How few realize that when we are in Church, especially during Mass or in front of the Blessed Sacrament, we are getting a glimpse of Heaven on Earth. How sad that time is wasted in endless chatter.

Anonymous said...

Talk is good and necessary to nurture community, but should be done in an area apart from the worship venue. Many parishes have a coffee & doughnut thing after one or more Masses. It seems to be successful. I so agree that people should not carry on right in the church proper.