3rd Sunday of Advent (2020)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
God spoke to Isaiah to Paul and to John the Baptist. God speaks to me and you and the Church. And God will continue to speak to anyone with ears to hear. He speaks to us in Scripture – Back Then, Right Now, and Always. Through His creation – the things of the universe, what we call Nature. And He speaks perfectly and uniquely through His Christ, whose Body the Church on earth we all are. When the Lord sends Isaiah “to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives,” He is sending us to do the same. When the Lord inspires Paul to tell the Thessalonians to “rejoice always [and] pray without ceasing,” He is inspiring us to do the same. When the Lord inspires St. John to recount the history of John the Baptist, who then quotes Isaiah – “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord”! – He is giving all of us our prophetic mission in this time and this place. The Word of God is eternal. What He said to Back Then holds Right Now and will hold for us Always. Heal the brokenhearted. Proclaim liberty to captives. Rejoice always. Pray w/o ceasing. Cry out in the desert. And make straight the way of the Lord! Advent is our time to prepare.
We prepare for the coming of the Lord at Christmas. His arrival as the Christ Child given to the world for the forgiveness of sin. We also prepare for his coming again at the end of the age. His coming as the Just Judge to weigh our words and deeds and to establish the Father's kingdom. The Church sets aside the third Sunday of Advent – Gaudete Sunday – as a way of reinforcing our fundamental attitude toward God and the mercy He offers to sinners: rejoicing. Exultation. Jubilation. Offering praise and thanksgiving to God for His loving-kindness. For creating us from nothing and for re-creating us in Christ Jesus. With everything going in this nation and the world, it may seem a bit naive to insist that we rejoice. It may seem somehow irresponsible even foolish to spend our time and energy giving God thanks and praise when it all looks to be falling apart. But there is no better time for rejoicing, for gratitude than right now. Right here, right now. The more the world around us collapses, the harder and quicker we must turn to the Lord. Turn to Him with rejoicing, with thanksgiving, and with praise. We are in this world. But we are not of it. And so, we are given the gifts of praying w/o ceasing. Of crying out in the desert. And of preparing the way of the Lord.
So, as the world collapses – which it is pretty much always doing – we stand firm on the foundation of Christ and his Church. If you are attached to the things of this world, then it's collapse presents a clear and present danger to who you are. If who you are is chained to your career, your wealth, your reputation, your politics – IOW, attached to anything important to being taken seriously by the world – then you are clearly in danger of losing yourself in the fall. If you've clothed yourself with the robe of success, entitlement, and prestige, or wrapped yourself in the mantle of self-righteousness and human justice, then the fall is going to hurt. And hurt bad. We've seen this show before. Many times. The Imperial Dynasties of China. The Mongols. The Roman Empire. The British and Ottoman Empires. Napoleon. The Third Reich. The Soviet Union. Maoist China. How many movie stars, athletes, politicians, pop stars have we lifted up only to see them crash? How many Utopian political ideologies have failed us? Stock markets crash. Wars flare up and destroy. Viruses infect and kill. And even Church leaders scheme and disappoint. Nothing in this world endures for long.
So, we attach ourselves to Christ, giving him thanks and praise and enduring along with him. One way we do this is to listen carefully to the Word of God that speaks to us through Scripture, through His creation, and His Christ. John the Baptist heard the Word and spent his life preaching so that any with ears to hear might repent and be baptized. He cried out in the desert. He prayed w/o ceasing. He gave God thanks and praise. We too have heard the prophetic Word from Christ. To go out into the world and bear witness to his mercy, testifying to the love of God and His promises of eternal. Gov't's fail us. Politicians and pop stars fail us. Popes, bishops, priests, and religious fail us. Money, power, reputation, stocks and bonds, academic credentials and careers – they all fail us or will fail us. Even a spouse or child, a best friend or a colleague can fail us. God cannot and will fail. We tie ourselves to His power and promises by offering Him our thanks and praise. He doesn't need anything from us. Nothing. But we need everything from Him. When it all collapses – and it will, it always does – Christ alone remains. So, rejoice and be glad. Your salvation comes in the name of the Lord!
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