Tag Archives: Third Sunday of Advent

Third Sunday of Advent – A reflection by Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

imagesAt a time that stood in the shadow of notorious papal scandal and other church corruption, a time of great distrust of the church, a saint came along to who would change some of this. This man had a great desire to counter these feelings of suspicion and a lack of trust, and replace them with a love of the Lord. If you were walking around Rome in the 16th century you might have spied him, perhaps standing in a piazza or on a street corner. He might stand out because he was frequently seen wearing absolutely ridiculous clothing and sometimes with half of his beard shaved off. What a sight! It was in this way that St. Philip Neri helped to change the course of church history, and bring many souls to know Christ.

While Neri is known for his extraordinary evangelizing, it was this offbeat approach that helped change lives. By joyfully using his extraordinary sense of humor, St. Philip left a huge imprint upon the church and the world. All this was accomplished by engaging others in conversation. These conversations might start with distrust or simply mere curiosity. Then they would eventually turn to laughter, which would become moments of conversion for many.

Introducing others to Christ came naturally to Neri, and in the most joyful way. In fact he once remarked that, A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one.”

quote-a-joyful-heart-is-more-easily-made-perfect-than-a-downcast-one-philip-neri-72-67-49Joy is our theme today, the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday. The word Gaudete comes from Latin and it means rejoice. It is in our rejoicing that our hearts are made more perfect as we prepare a place to welcome Jesus, our Emmanuel.

But wait, we are to prepare a place? What place? And we are to prepare a place with joy? What joy? In our culture, the broader call of these weeks is to prepare for Christmas. You know, by spinning ourselves dizzy with cards, cooking, baking, shopping, socializing and more. However, this day is a marker on the Advent path that directs us to the heart of our joy, reminding us to keep the focus on the Lord.

Each year I vow to practice a quieter and calmer Advent. Honestly, I like to think that I will do such a thing, but I rarely achieve it. This Advent has me busy, but I have attempted to trim some of my activities, resulting in the creation of a bit of needed space. This is a mirror of our liturgical season, so that a place for the newborn Lord might be prepared in my heart. That tiny space is like a manger in my heart. It’s not the best spot, but it will do.

If we can keep our preparation focused on our hearts, rather than on our tasks, and we can also be focused on joy, we might be able access new places. Now the birth of Christ might be anticipated with the silent, patient, hopeful waiting of this season. This is joy to be had now, not postponed. Joy that is only increased as the child is born. This is the joy that helps bring our hearts to perfection.

Yet, in the midst of this, I am aware that it is dangerously easy to make religious practice into a dry and somber act, one that is certainly not joyful. How can we prepare this barren place for new life with joy?

rejoiceJoyfulness is the core of the words of the prophet Zephaniah in the first reading, which tells us to shout for joy, sing joyfully. We hear the message to “be glad and exult.” We are also told not to be discouraged. We should not be discouraged because God is in our midst. God is in our midst, a mighty savior who wants to rejoice over us in gladness; God in our midst having removed all judgment against us. Suddenly I imagine St. Philip, with half a beard and funny clothes, telling people about the promise of Christ in their midst!

In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul repeats the same message – rejoice! As if he understood that we might be skeptical, or outright disbelieving, and as if he knew that we would lack joy, he repeats himself, “I shall say it again: rejoice!”

What don’t we understand about this? The Lord is near, and the Lord offers of the peace that is beyond our understanding. This is what is available to us through Christ – a kind of joy not known before. “A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one.” St. Philip reinterprets St. Paul who said it first, using different words.

6e8f4a10eca3c8570802ad461dbe4ed7Why then, is this so hard to integrate into our lives? I ask myself this question! Although I make my way, I stumble. I am trying to muster some joy and gratitude, some hope and some recognition of the God that is already in my midst. That God is healing, forgiving, loving, reconciling and is right here, right now.

I don’t know about you, but here we are, less than two weeks before Christmas, and despite all of my words, I’m not there yet. Just what do I find in my midst? I find anxiety over shopping, money, unfinished work on my desk, and not being good enough for God. Yet it is God who is in my midst, who is in our midst – bringing us that joy in great abundance. We are not asked to manufacture joy, we are asked to respond to it in kind.

So now what? That all sounds well and good, but what should I do? This is the question at the heart of Luke’s Gospel for today, “What then should we do?” John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Lord, is drawing attention to himself by baptizing and preaching. Unlike St. Philip who often used levity, John the Baptist is very serious. Make no mistake however; they have more than a few things in common.

People want something, but they do not know what to do, so they ask him. John minces no words. Give more. You have two tunics? Good, give one to someone else! If you have anything, share it. Even the despised tax collectors want to know what to do, and John is as clear with them; do not take more than you are supposed to take. Sounds easy enough, but that went against the standard of the time. Of course, we must stop to consider this; John is addressing us as well. Can we do this?

slideshow_advent_3-1And how is this joyful? It is if we stop confusing joy with happiness, and begin to understand the state of our hearts when they encounter Jesus. When we encounter and stay with Christ, we find the heart of joy. We come to discover that God is in our midst, and we are forgiven. This God in our midst, this God-with-us, has given deep peace. This God, our Emmanuel, has come to save us in the form of the Christ child. That is at the heart of our joy.

Perhaps then, out of that heart of joy, we can find the ability to both prepare a place for the Lord and also to give what we have away. We can do this because of one joyful fact; the more we come to know Christ and give everything away, the more He comes to live in our hearts. Now that is cause for rejoicing! And it is in that rejoicing in Christ that our hearts, perhaps not joyful at first, might be turned to Him.

************************************************************************************

Hungry_and_you_fed_meThis was first published in 2012 as part of the Homilists for the Homeless project in the book, Hungry, And You Fed Me: Homilies and Reflections for Cycle C, by Clear Faith Publishing. To date, in excess of $100,000 has been donated to various charities as a result of the sales of these books. As an original contributor, and as someone actively involved with this project, I remain humbled to be a part of it all.

Please visit our website. In addition to that charitable project, we also offer other books and items, such as works by liturgical composer David Haas, and prolific author and priest, Fr. Bill Bausch, among others. Also featured are calendars, cards, and a book by Bro. Mickey McGrath OSFS. Proceeds from these books benefit the ministers and their various ministries. Please like and follow us on Facebook if you have not done so already. Local Albany people can also find the book at O’Connor’s Church Goods in Latham.

 

 

Comments Off on Third Sunday of Advent – A reflection by Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

Filed under Advent, Advent 2015

Advent Reflection – December 15, 2013 – Dreams Made Real

"I haven't any dreams left to dream." Dolly

“I haven’t any dreams left to dream.” Dolly

“I haven’t any dreams left to dream.” Those are the words of Dolly, one of the residents of the “Island of Misfit Toys, from the 1964 TV special, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” Upon seeing this program premiere when I was 7, I discovered an instant and on-going favorite for the Christmas season. As a kid who always felt slightly out of the mainstream, the whole misfit toys thing really appealed to me.

Forty-nine years later a line caught my heart as I watched the show last night. Rudolph, he himself a bit mis-fitty (let’s not even go there, the subtext of that part of the show is too much for me right now), has promised to return to the island and to get the toys delivered this Christmas. There is a big storm and the night draws nigh, and it seems that once again, the toys will not escape their lonely exile.

Charlie-in-the-box is resigned to waiting.

Charlie-in-the-box is resigned to waiting.

Misfit toy Charlie-in-the-box resigns himself to getting back in his box and wait until “next year.” Poor Dolly, in all her felted glory sniffs and says, “I haven’t any dreams left to dream.”

The Jewish people of first century Palestine had seemingly run out of dreams themselves. Under the heel of the Roman occupiers, and down on their luck in so many ways, they longed for a delivery just like the toys did. The delivery that they were awaiting was that of the Messiah, who would deliver and redeem them.

Today, the Third Sunday of Advent, is Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means to rejoice, and that is what we are doing. The liturgical color is pink, like that third candle in your Advent wreath. In some churches, the priest will be vested in a rose colored chasuble. We are inching our way towards the radiant dawn of Christ’s birth, but first the night grows long and dark. This Sunday is a reminder that the light will come – and that we still have dreams to dream.

GaudeteFor so many of us, this is a difficult time of year. We may be far too busy, we may be sick, we may be unemployed and/or financially overextended,or we may just feel low. Our Scriptures today mean to orient us towards not only hope, but joy.

The desert in bloom.

The desert in bloom.

From Isaiah, we have this opening:

The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!

Joy and hope, although often conflated with happiness and optimism are not the same thing. The generous joy given to us by God is within even in the darkest moments, the unhappiest times. Our hope is rooted in God, while optimism is rooted in ourselves.

How do we find that hope when we feel bereft, dry, empty, and out of patience? What does James tell us?

See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
being patient with it
until it receives the early and the late rains.

Our Gospel from Matthew reminds us that John, the great prophet with the ultimate foretelling of Jesus’ coming, is fading, the redemptive power of Christ is at hand.

“Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”

There is a shift, things are changing. When things are at their almost darkest, we are prone to the most discouragement. Like Dolly, we all may feel as if we are out of dreams to dream. Today may we find ways to rejoice in the coming of the Lord, even if we can’t see or feel it. Today may we find ways to encourage others, who have come to the end of their own dreams.

campfireIn the TV show, which many of you may already know, just as Dolly offers her statement of defeat, the ringing of bells announces the arrival of Santa and his sleigh. She and the other misfit toys will now be delivered to homes where they will be loved. And in our lives, the pink candle announces that we will be delivered and that love will abound. This is not simply the light of the candle, but the Light of Christ that we await.

Gaudete002Let us light that third candle in our wreaths and in our hearts, shining for not only ourselves, but for the world to rejoice in. The Good News is being proclaimed – and there are countless dreams left to dream, dreams made real in the name of Christ the Lord.

Comments Off on Advent Reflection – December 15, 2013 – Dreams Made Real

Filed under Advent, Advent 2013

Third Sunday of Advent Reflection – Deep Sorrow and Sharp Joy

050811-066.Today’s readings can be accessed here. I was all set to post the homiletic reflection that was published in the book, Hungry and You Fed Me: Homilies and Reflections for Cycle C.  Today is Gaudete Sunday, a day of joy, rejoicing and the homily that is in the book reflects that. If you want to read it, you can see it here, on the diocesan Amazing God webpage.

What do we think of today? Father Pat Butler, our pastor, spoke to us about the importance of silence in his homily for this weekend. I also went to mass at Immaculate Conception in Glenville, where I work, and Father Jerry Gingras reminded us of how easy it is to conflate joy and happiness, rejoicing and celebration. This reminds me that joy something that we possess in Christ, and happiness is but a fleeting feeling.

The image above was taken in a forest. I was struck by what the fire had wrought – a field of rose colored flowers. The photo shows a forest that was burned to nothing, to black scorched earth. The fire killed everything in sight, or so it seemed. Our Gospel today has John the Baptist telling us this:

His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.

The unquenchable fire burns, but look at what grows in the aftermath! This mystery is unknowable, we encounter such rich gifts in life, and we encounter such unfathomable sorrow. There is no answer, and I am reminded of the gifts of silence that Father Pat Butler spoke of. This image and these few (probably too many) words – that is all.

May God gather the children and the adults of Sandy Hook into God’s loving embrace. May God’s mercy enshroud the grieving families and friends of those who have died so tragically, so brutally. And we continue to offer our prayers for the families of Deanna Rivers and Chris Stewart.

1 Comment

Filed under Advent, Advent 2012, Advent Reflections