Sunday, December 13, 2009
Fr. James's Sunday Homily: Third Sunday of Advent: REJOICE!
Alexander the Great conquered the known world in his day. His life teaches us that true joy is not to be found in material wealth and power. One night he wept in his tent and said, "There are no more worlds to conquer."
With the lighting of the pink candle of the Advent Wreath, we are reminded that we are called to live with joy. Today's liturgy underlines the message of elation with the words of St. Paul: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5: 17-18).
Christianity is a joyful religion. The birth of the Savior brings joy to the world. He is the only source of true joy. “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels”. (Isaiah 61: 10).
Who else but the Messiah can cause the entire world to celebrate the feast of Christmas year after year? Who else but the Messiah can cause so many people to sing joyful Christmas carols, decorate homes with cheerful lights, and erect beautifully decorated trees in living rooms? Who else but the Messiah can cause so many people to exchange gifts and cards with such kindness and affection? Who else but the Messiah can cause such a yearly outpouring of joy?
Even though the Messiah brings us such joy by saving us from sin, adversity is still with us. However, just think what life's difficulties would be like without Jesus. The weight of daily challenges would crush us. He gives us the power to be joyful and to persevere. “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God”. (Isaiah 61: 1-2).
In this Sunday’s gospel narrative, we are reminded that we can only experience true joy when we are converted to the Lord. Belief in the Lord implies conversion. “I baptize with water; but there is one among you who you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie” (John 1: 26-27).
As a third-century man was anticipating death, he wrote these last words to a friend: "It's a bad world, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people are the Christians - and I am one of them."
This Sunday’s liturgy reminds us that Christianity is a joyful experience. We know that only the Lord will give us true joy and that he will give us the strength to overcome the challenges and difficulties of life. Patience is essential if we are to be joyful and never allow ourselves to be crushed by the difficulties of life. Let us remember the words of the Apostle Paul: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5: 17-18).
The challenges of life will always be with us, but each day we have a choice: the choice to be happy or the choice to be miserable. Each day we can make the choice to conqueror life and soar despite the difficulties that come to us, or we can make the choice to wallow in self-pity. When we make the choice to live joyful lives, our soul opens up to the action of the Holy Spirit and he fills our whole being with his power.
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