Saturday, December 13, 2014

2014/12/14 – 3rd Sunday Advent – It this all there is?

Before Mass
Today is gaudete Sunday...  Any idea why we call it that??  Well pick up your missalette and turn to page 40.  Lets read the entrance antiphon together.  Rejoice!  In latin, it is Gaudete this right here is how this Sunday got its name.  Also, youll notice three of the four readings Tell us to REJOICE!  Pay particular attention to the psalm and the second reading.  In case you don't recognize it, the psalm is Mary's prayer when she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth.its call the Magnificat.  Powerful stuff.  And the letter from Paul gives us some advice which may sound like wishful thinking:  Rejoice Always!  Is that possible in this life?  Let's lift at question up in prayer during today's Mass and see if applies to our own life.
Homily 3rd Sunday Advent 2014 It this all there is?
This may sound corny or cliché, but I want you to think back to Christmas as a child.  Now immediately, we usually think of the gifts and the lights and Santa and Midnight Mass and all the magic in the air because thats what Christmas is supposedto be like.  But I want you to think just a couple of years AFTER that time.  That one Christmas when after all the gifts were opened you felt well empty.  Is that all there is?  Is this what all the hype was about? 
That year, somebody asked you, Did you get what you wanted for Christmas?  And you thought well – “No.  Im not really sure what I wanted, but obviously I didnt get it, because I just feel like something is missing.  Is that all there is?
For many of us, THAT Christmas was the first time we had the feeling that Life is not all about feeling good and doing whatever we want and getting everything we want.  In fact, many of us Id even venture to say MOST of us have learned THAT lesson all too well.  Weve learned that this life is one struggle after another.  From the first time we skinned our knee by falling off our bike to the first time we failed a test in school.... Thru the car trouble we had recently...through all of lifes challenges:  failed relationships, unfaithful spouses, addictions, wrecks, kids and family members getting sick and dying.  Yeahwe learn THAT lesson over and over.  Life is full of pain.  And if thats really all that life is about, we'd always be thinking is this all there is?
You may think Im off in the weeds with all this depressing talk on Guadete Sunday when were told to REJOICE!  Thing is, many of us dont FEEL like rejoicing.  Life has dealt us a bad hand, and theres just nothing worth getting excited about.  All this Christmas talk is just another reason to be depressed, because it only serves to remind us of who is no longer with us and the things that we DIDNT get for Christmas.  Is this all there is?
But there IS reason to rejoice here. In that second reading, Paul says, Rejoice Always.   In all circumstances give thanks.  Really?  Is that even possible?
About 20 years ago, I was given this book Prison to Praise. 20 yearsbut its message has stuck with me.  The message is the same as Pauls reading today:  'In all circumstances give thanks.'  I remember story after story of how this guy turned his life around completely by learning to thank God not just for the Blessings but for the worst things in his life.  Did you catch that?  He even thanked God for his life of crime that led him to be stuck in prison where he learned about God for the first time.  He learned that lesson the hard way, and his life took a 180 degree turnand then helped many other people experience that same joy by thanking God for EVERYthing.  Can you imagine thanking God for your spouses addiction to alcohol?  Thanking God that your teenager is rebellious and wont listen?  Thanking God that your family member got sick?  Thanking God for the cancer?
I remember reading this and thinking this is a bunch of mumbo-jumbo  Some sort of Pollyanna psychology which just says if you "think" everything is great, then it will be great!    Honestly, I didnt like the book the first time I read it.
But the message kept coming back to me.  Thank God for EVERYthing.  So I tried it first in small things.  God thank you for putting this slowpoke in front of me to slow me down on the highway.  Apparently, you want me to learn patience or maybe youre keeping me from hitting a deer up ahead.  Thank you for that tough test in schoolas painful as it was, I know it is teaching me how to handle tough situationsand to prepare myself better for lifes tests...and maybe teaching me not to waste time.
After maybe a year, I read it again and this time took the message to heart.  Ill admit, there are things about the book I still didnt like but the basic message felt right to me, and the truth of it is being revealed more and more in my own life.
I can thank God that my Mom got sick and was near death, because it shook me from my complacency of thinking shell always be around and now I consciously make time to spend with her because I know time is precious.
See how it works?  If you and I can start by thanking God - even for the bad stuff-  the Spirit can lead us to recognize the impactto see the good that God is bringing about through that trial were experiencing.  Usually, we won't see the good until the trial is just a memory.  Looking in hindsight, we see God's hand.  Here's the key though...If you and I practice this attitude over and over, it becomes part of who we are.  Eventually, we develop enough trust in God that even though we can't FEEL God's hand on our shoulder, we trust that in time he will turn the situation to accomplish His will.
Now Im not gonna say life gets any easier!  Things still happen which will make us say Why?  It doesnt make sense, God!  How can I thank you for THIS?  How do you expect me to rejoice about THIS!  Seriously, there are things we will never understand this side of heaven. 
But oh to have the faith of the young virgin who found out she was having a baby.  Her life was over... She was destined for a life of pain.  Yet, in today's psalm, we hear her Magnificat....the ultimate example of how we can respond to every trial:  "My spirit rejoices in God, my savior".

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