Rejoice always

(December 13, 2020)

Bottom line: Today we prepare our hearts for Jesus' coming by taking seriously Paul's command, "Rejoice always."

Last week we heard the words, "Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God." God's comfort, as we saw, is different from the false comfort this world offers. The world tries to comfort with lies, especially the lie that sin does not exist. The world then compounds that lie by saying some things are so terrible they cannot be forgiven. That's why you hear people say, "I'm a very forgiving person but what he did is unforgivable." No, when we confess our sins, when we take responsibility, God forgives. That forgiveness brings deep lasting comfort, also known as joy.

We can see that joy in today's first reading. The prophet Isaiah says,

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 brokenhearted...

When I was a young man, an older friend told me, "Treat each person you meet as if he has a broken heart - and you will not be wrong." Those words stuck with me. You and I can bring healing to others. We cannot, however, heal the deep wounds in human hearts. We need someone greater.

A long time ago people thought that John the Baptist would be the great healer - the anointed one that Isaiah prophesied. In Greek anointed is "cristos" or Christ. But when people asked John if the was the Christ, the anointed one, he responded, "I am not the Christ." Rather he says, "I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, 'make straight the way of the Lord,'" As great as he is, John knows that someone much greater is coming. John has the diagnosis, but the anointed one possesses the cure. John baptizes with water but the Christ will baptize with water and the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit brings not only forgiveness but healing and power.

That's why Paul can say those incredible words, "Rejoice always." (1 Thes 5:16) Those words do not come easy to my lips. Last week a man in our parish lost his dear wife. Another family was struck with Covid. To tell them to rejoice would sound like mockery. But St. Paul, writing to people who suffered as much or more than we do, he does say, "Rejoice always."

I may not be as bold as St. Paul. He tells people - including hurting and heartbroken people - Rejoice always. I will at least do it with a symbol. Today we lit the rose candle of our Advent wreath - and I am wearing rose vestments. The color signifies rejoicing. Though we come to the Lord with hearts broken - in some degree by our own faults - we look toward the one who is forgiveness and healing.

Before I conclude, I want to say something else. This may surprise you: We have a duty to be happy. The great novelist Robert Louis Stevenson said, "There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world." The main thing our loved ones want of us is that we be happy. I have seen people with terrible problems who managed a smile - a smile that radiated an inner happiness. It's not impossible. With Jesus help it is not impossible. Next Sunday we will see the woman who shows us the way. The Bible says of her, "Hail, full of grace! the Lord is with you!" We will focus on her next week as we draw near the birth of her Son. Today we prepare our hearts for Jesus' coming by taking seriously Paul's command, "Rejoice always."


Spanish Version (Word document)

From Archives (Third Sunday of Advent, Year B):

2017: God's Thirst, Our Thirst Week 3: Pray Without Ceasing
2014: Preparing Our Hearts Week 3
2011: Joy is a Decision
2008: Too Serious to Take Seriously
2005: The Secret of Happiness
2002: To Heal the Brokenhearted

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron

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