Saturday, December 15, 2007

Why rejoice? (Homily for Gaudete Sunday)

The third Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudete Sunday”—
Gaudete is Latin, of course; the English is “Rejoice.”
The name comes from the Opening Chant
assigned for this Mass, which we didn’t use today;
but if we had, we’d have begun Mass to the words,
“Gaudete in Domino semper—"
“Rejoice in the Lord always! Again, I say, rejoice!”

We’re a little more than halfway to Christmas,
That’s why the vestments, for this Sunday,
are not purple, but rose;
the third, rose, candle, comes from the vestments
that priests have worn, on this Sunday, for centuries.

Now, we might wonder:
why do we need a command to rejoice?
This time of year, with parties and hoopla…
we may already be worn out!

Well, this reminds us what Advent is really about.

Someone asked me the other day,
why aren’t we singing Christmas carols at Mass yet?
My answer was, because it’s not Christmas yet!

It’s a shame many of us think
Christmas ends December 25.
It’s like we go to a wedding, we party hearty,
only to walk out, exhausted, just as the couple arrives!

No, for Catholics, Christmas just begins on the 25th;
and we celebrate for three weeks!
Through Mother of God, through Epiphany,
until the Lord’s Baptism, on January 13.

Advent is like what mom says:
“Don’t eat it all now, save some for later!”

But there’s something else:
not everyone is in a mood to celebrate.
For some, this can be a very tough time.
So how can St. Paul tell us we must rejoice?

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict,
recently issued a letter called, “Saved by Hope.”

He points out how often we place our hope in progress;
but the problems of the human heart stay the same.
He writes, “it is not science that redeems man:
man is redeemed by love.”

But most of the love we experience,
as powerful as it is, “remains fragile.
It can be destroyed by death.

“The human being needs unconditional love…
If this absolute love exists, with its absolute certainty,
then—only then—is man ‘redeemed’…
This is what it means to say:
Jesus Christ has ‘redeemed’ us.”

This time of year, we are told to celebrate, quote,
“the holiday season.”
Yes, but—what holiday do you mean?
We find no hope in some generic “holiday season”;
that ends up leaving us hollow.

To quote the pope once more:
“the greater and lesser hopes
that keep us going day by day…are not enough
without the great hope,
which must surpass everything else”:
“the God who has a human face
and who has loved us to the end.”

At the beginning of Mass, at the door of church,
we welcomed folks preparing for baptism.
It symbolized a step in their journey.
What has drawn them? Why are they coming here?

As the pope said: we long for God who
has a human face—and only in Jesus is that true.
We are drawn to Christ—
and to the Church he founded, the Catholic Church.
We are drawn by hope, which the world cannot give.

We’ve had some rough funerals this year;
what gets us through is knowing that Jesus said
he would conquer death…
and also knowing, he kept his word!
But if God was not born as one of us,
then God never went the Cross,
and God didn’t die for us,
and no one came back from the dead.

Jesus—and only Jesus—is the reason for the season!
Jesus—and he alone—is our hope!
This hope sustains us especially in our pain;
it is a light “in dark places, when all other lights go out.”

And this, this is the power of the Mass—
here alone is where bitterness and joy really can unite;
all our world’s sorrows, all the wretchedness of sin,
but also, all the perfection and promise of heaven,
are really made one: at the Cross and at this Altar!

And it’s all or nothing:
If the Eucharist isn’t Jesus—then it’s nothing at all!
Bread and wine? They can’t save us! That’s not hope!
On the other hand,
If it is true that Christ offers this Mass—and it is true—
then it his broken body, his shed blood, that we share—
Our God, come to save us!

That is hope.
“Christ has died. Christ is risen! Christ will come again.”
So—yes: “Rejoice in the Lord…always!
Again, I say, rejoice.”


Anonymous said...

Wonderful homily Fr..

Anonymous said...

Just excellent, Fr. Martin

I enjoyed being at your table for Cursillo; what a wonderful weekend that was!

I check in here to read your thoughts and homilies, and boy, do I learn a lot.

Merry Christmas to you, your family and both of your parishes!!

CourageMan said...

Is this your idea of liturgical pink, Father?