3rd Sunday Advent
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Patience is the good habit of knowing that you are not in control. . .AND acting like you know that you are not in control. Moms tell me that patience is learning to watch a toddler tie her shoes w/o helping. ER nurses tell me that patience is trying to get an EDP to lie still for an IV. As a professor, I can tell you that patience is waiting for a student to give you the answer you've repeated in class at least twelve times that week. New Orleans traffic requires patience, a supernatural God-given patience that elevates one to near sainthood if you manage it w/o taking a tire-iron to your fellow drivers. However, none of these examples of patience truly illustrate the strength and persistence in virtue that Christian patience requires. The Church has been waiting for 2,019 years for the Second Coming of the Christ. That's 24,248mos. 736,935 days. Genuine Christian patience is fed by hope and grounded firmly in joy. Without hope, we wait in vain. Without joy, we reach for that tire-iron and start swinging. James says, “You must be patient. Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
Since the coming of the Lord is at hand, we need to know how to make our hearts firm. We know that hope feeds our patience. And that joy fends off the temptation to despair while we wait. Hope is the good habit of expecting the Lord's promises to be fulfilled AND knowing that they have been fulfilled. Joy is altogether something different. Joy is not a habit or an emotion. Joy isn't what we normally think of as glee or gladness or delight. No, joy is something far more fundamental to the Christian, something deeper and wider than just a good feeling. Joy is the child of love, the daughter of charity. So, when we rejoice, as we do knowing that the Christ Child is coming, we commit an act of love – for God and for one another. IOW, to rejoice is to almost perfectly participate in Divine Love Himself. To know joy fully, our desire for God must be fulfilled, and that cannot happen until we see Him face-to-face. But rejoicing now, right here and now, we come as close as we possibly can this side of heaven to knowing and loving Him as He knows and loves us. So, until we meet Him, our desire for Him remains unfulfilled, not-quite-full. . .and, while waiting, we rejoice so that we may come closer and closer to heaven. Joy firms the heart.
Our Lord asks the crowd a vital question about John the Baptist: “What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?” Did y'all go all the way into the desert hoping to find a flexible, supple teacher who easily bends the truth with every breeze that comes along? No? Did you go out there to find a man wearing fine robes like a prince? “Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.” They go out into the desert to find a prophet, a prophet with a firm heart, a clear vision, and a motivated message. They find Christ's herald, his forerunner; and they find a straight and level path to Christ. They find that the lame can walk, the blind can see, the deaf can hear, and the dead can live. They find forgiveness and mercy, and they find eternal life. And so do we when we bring our sins, our diseases, our faults, our disabilities, our hatreds and pains, our mourning and weeping, and anything else that clouds our hope and joy. We find eternal life. Not a pie-in-the-sky promise from some long dead teacher. . .but the living, breathing promise of a Savior who is himself life. Are you here this evening looking for a promise that bends with the wind? Or you looking to have your hearts firmly established in the truth, goodness, and beauty of God Himself?
If you are looking to have your heart firmly established in the truth of the Gospel, then you will wait patiently on the Lord. And while you wait, you will strengthen your feeble hands, firm up your weakened knees, and you will “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.” What tragedy or crime or disaster made in this world can steal the hope and joy of a Christian who knows and loves God? What temptation to sin can overcome the promise of eternal life? What fear or anxiety or hatred can kidnap a Christian's peace in Christ? With your heart and mind firmly grounded in the truth of the Gospel nothing and no one can move you from your place at the wedding feast. . .unless you want to be moved. Patience, courage, persistence, fortitude – endure, endure, endure. And never fail to rejoice in the coming of the Lord. Rejoice always! I say again: REJOICE!
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