Lick The Ice Cream When We Can


3rd Sunday of Advent 2020

Deacon Tom Vert

Preached: December 13, 2020

“We have to lick the ice cream when we can!”

You may remember that I worked at Dofasco Steel for 30 years, many in the operations management part of the plant.

In a steel plant there are so many things that can go wrong, and most of the time do!

If it wasn’t an injury in the plant, there was an unplanned maintenance shutdown, or maybe a quality problem with some steel for Toyota, or a dark puff of smoke into the environment or of course an unplanned cost issue.

There was always something each day, though on some occasions, everything would run well with no concerns in any area and I would say to the team “enjoy it, lick the ice cream while we can”.

Licking the ice cream means to appreciate the moment, don’t get distracted by what had happened in the past or what might happen in the future, but enjoy today, before you see a melted dripping ice cream in your hand that you forgot about because you were so focused on the past or future.

Today’s readings challenge us this same thing – to appreciate the present moment for what positives there are.

St. Paul says in the 2nd reading: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

What a great message to the Thessalonians 2000 years ago and to us today.

The Thessalonians were very stressed, they were being persecuted by the people around them, their property was taken away, they were shunned by their families and some were even beaten and put to death.

Today we have the Covid virus with millions of people around the world infected, and hundreds of thousands have died including people in our own community.

So when Paul tells them and us to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances, we may think that he is being unrealistic.

Can he really mean always and in all circumstances?  Doesn’t he realize this is a global pandemic that hasn’t been seen in over 100 years!  Surely he doesn’t expect that now?

But St. Paul does mean it!  He wants them to be licking the ice cream all the time, rejoicing and being grateful every day!

Is this possible for us today?  What do we learn from the other readings today?

In the psalm we have sung today, it is one of the only psalms or songs that are not from the book of Psalms in the Old Testament.

The verses we have sung today are the ones that Mary said to Elizabeth when she went to visit her.

Think of the perspective…here is a young Jewish girl, who was told by an angel that she would be an unwed mother in a time in which the shame would have been unimaginable.  It was a time in which the Jewish people lived under Roman occupation in horrible circumstances.  She was travelling pregnant through the countryside to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was also pregnant under unusual circumstances.

So we have a scared, young girl who is told by her cousin: “Blessed are you among women; blessed is the fruit of your womb; blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

We can imagine that Mary was thinking how could I possibly be the mother of the Saviour? What does this mean?

And yet we know that her answer mirrors what St. Paul asks us, full of joy and thankfulness she says:

‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,  and why?  “for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.”

Mary has no illusions that she is so much better than anyone else, but instead, she is proud to be fulfilling her role in God’s plan with the birth of Christ.

She goes on to say “Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me,” in other words she is only blessed because of what God has done for her, not how great she is!

What a great lesson for each of us as we are fulfilling God’s plans also in our daily lives by living the unique mission that he has called us to! God acts through us and it is not our super spirituality that drives the mission.

We hear this same gratitude for fulfilling God’s mission in the 1st reading in Isaiah’s words: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord”.

We hear this message of humility in fulfilling God’s mission in the gospel as John the Baptist says I am not the light but I came to testify to the light.

The beautiful message we hear today is that God wants us to have a life of joy and gratitude, of prayer and connection to Him!

We have joy and gratitude not in some naïve state of seeing nothing going on in the world, but instead for knowing that despite sickness, war, stress, etc., we have joy and give thanks for the present love we feel when we pray; and for the promise of the future of eternal life.

We have joy and gratitude because God gives us the talents and support and grace for the mission he has anointed us to fulfill!

How do we give joy and gratitude? We do it by “living a life worthy of the gospel” and allowing the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be turned into the fruits and exude them in our lives and especially in our interactions with others.

When people see us as we live this life we are called to, they are to see joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control and of course love!

We can do it because as St. Paul tells us “the one who calls you is faithful and he will do this!

So how do we live this message each day in this time of pandemic?

How do we even see the ice cream so we can eat it?

Well I am thankful to say that this past week I have met some people in our parish that can tell us how.  We were visiting people in need for their Christmas help from our giving tree.

These are the people who are already in distress in many cases, living in subsidized housing, many single mothers with multiple children whose lives are stressful on a good day.  Or elderly people living alone as we all try and protect them from the virus.

And yet, when we visit, we get a smile and a comment “this is the best present I could have gotten” “we are so glad to see you” “Merry Christmas”, with love and joy in the hearts.

What I learned this past week is that despite whatever is going on there is always something to be thankful for, no matter how small, no matter how brief.

We can recognize it as that key moment in our day, a gift from God to show that us that he is still there watching over us, and then we can realize that God loves us so much and “we can lick the ice cream when we can”!

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The Path To Joy


3rd Sunday Of Advent 2019

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: December 15, 2019

Someone once said that there is only one relevant spiritual question.  What do you think is that one spiritual question?      “Why aren’t you dancing for joy at this very moment?”

Are you dancing for joy in your heart at this moment?  This Third Sunday of Advent is also known as Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday.  Perhaps we might say, “how can I be joyful?  I amgrieving right now, or I was just divorced, or I have an illness, or I am unemployed, or any of the many other challenges that we might be facing right now.

But, joy is not a feeling, it is a choice.  It is something deep in the heart rooted in a trust in the goodness of God.  It is possible to be sad and still have joy deep in our heart, to be grieving and still have joy deep in our heart.

Pope Francis has written two major documents to the church.  One is called, The Joy of the Gospel and the other is called, The Joy of Love.  The Joy of the Gospel offers a vision for the church in our world today.  The Joy of Love offers a vision for marriage and family life in our world today.  Both are rooted in the joy that comes when we place our lives into the hands of the Lord with trust.

How do we live as a people of joy, how do we maintain joy deep in our heart during the struggles of life?  The Prophet Isaiah, St. James and Jesus each give us some important keys to being people of joy in our readings today.

In the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah speaks of rejoicing, joy, gladness.  Isaiah says to speak to those who are struggling, “Be strong, do not fear!”  How often do we hear those words throughout the Bible, “Do not fear!”  When we allow fear to rule us, it becomes an obstacle to joy.

When we are ruled by fear, it leads us away from love and away from God.  Fear can lead us to act against what we know to be good and true.  When you see racism, prejudice, bigotry, you can know that the root of these attitudes towards others, is fear.  This leads us away from joy.  So, first step to keeping joy in our heart is to hear those words of Isaiah, “Be strong, do not fear!”

In the second reading, St. James says “Be patient.”  Our time is not God’s time.  We are pilgrims, this is not our eternal home.  We are on a journey to our true home.  We need to be patient when faced with dark moments, difficult times, when we are feeling empty and dry.

I remember being in a desert while visiting the Holy Land.  When you looked around in that desert there was just sand, rocks, empty fields that seemed to have no life.  But, a week later following a rare rain storm, in that same desert, beautifully coloured flowers bloomed and came to life. That desert that seemed so dead before was now so full of life.

In our lives at times, we have moments when we feel empty, life seems so hard, our relationship with God seems to dry up completely.  Then we need to listen to St. James, “Be patient.”  Deep down is a new life able to bloom.  Be patient and wait for the rain that God will bring, then that joy deep in our heart can come forth again.

In the Gospel, Jesus says to some of the disciples of John the Baptist who came to ask him if he was the one who is to come, “Go and tell John what you hear and see:  the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”  To have joy deep within us, we need to allow Jesus to come and heal us.

Some of us are blind.  We see others, we see life in a way that is hard and resentful.  We need to see in a new way, to see with the merciful eyes of God.

Some of us are lame.  We have been paralyzed by some situation, a failure, a disappointment.  We need to find the strength and hope to get up again and live life with new enthusiasm.

Some of us are lepers.  We have cut ourselves off from others and isolated ourselves.  We need to be cleansed and reach out to others, be connected again to family and community.

Some of us are deaf.  We need to be healed in order to listen to others, to hear the anguish and hurt from people in our family, our workplace, our community.

Some of us are dead.  We are not living life, but simply going through the motions.  We need to be raised up again to embrace life more fully.

Some of us are poor.  Life seems only to be bad news for us.  We need to have good news brought to us.

The one relevant spiritual question for all of us is, “Why are you not dancing for joy at this very moment.”  We the People of God are called to be a People of Joy.

The path to joy is not to be ruled by fear, but to be patient when in the dark moments of life and to be open to the good news that Jesus brings.

Do not fear, be patient, receive good news.  Choose that joy that is lying deep within your heart, allow it to bloom and come to life.


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Look Up And Rejoice – Fr. David


3rd Sunday of Advent – Year B

Fr. David Reitzel

Preached: Dec 17, 2017

In the summer of 2011, I found myself helping lead a group of 40 something youths on a pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Madrid. The Pope was going to Spain and our intention was to meet him there, together with millions of youth from all over the world. We had spent months planning. We fundraised, organised transportation, and even learned a bit of Spanish. We ended up arriving a few days before the Holy Father. During these days our group would spend the mornings traveling to a nearby town for catechesis talks given by a bishop.
All was going well, until one morning as our train arrived at the town for catechesis, we learned that one boy was missing.  We went into a panic and franticly made phone calls, and thought of all the possibilities of where this boy could be. We sent someone back on the train to see if they could find him while the rest of us continued to the church for catechesis.
When we arrived at the church already disapointed by the loss of one of our youth, we learned that the talk was already more than half over. Our delay over the lost youth had made us late and now there was no point in attending the event for which we traveled her in the first place. From where we stood it would have been better if we had just stayed home that morning. The morale of the 40 youth and their leaders was running pretty low.
To try and salvage something out of our day, we decided to take a bus to the city centre to do some sightseeing. The first few kilometres on the bus went well. But then we turned onto the expressway. Instantly we were stopped, not by traffic, but by a line of police cars. The highway had been blockaded and no one was allowed past. For the third time that day our hearts sank. We lost a kid, we missed our catechesis, and now we were stick on a bus in the Spanish sun for God knows how long. Some of us began to wonder why we went on this pilgrimage in the first place.
However, to our surprise, the police car in front of us moved, creating a path for our bus to pass through. We drove on past the blockade and continued on down the highway. However, something was off, as we looked around us, we realized that we were the only vehicle the police had let through. There was a four lane highway with only us on it. It was kind of eerie. Also we noticed that every overpass was packed with people looking down as we drove underneath them. What was going on?
That’s when we came to another police blockade, only this time we were the only ones they were blocking. After we stopped, an officer came on the bus and asked us kindly to get off. A little concerned, we demanded to know what was going on, and the police officer with a smirk on his face said, “You haven’t heard? The Pope’s plane just landed and that onramp there comes directly from the airport, don’t you want to be the first ones to see him?”
Instantly the mood in that bus went from confusion, fear, and disappointment, to complete and utter joy. The youth started shouting in excitement as they ran from the bus to the guard rail of that highway onramp. We waited a few minutes before we saw the first sign of the Holy Father’s arrival.
Two police motorcycles came screaming down the onramp, and then some SUVs with tinted windows, that must be the security. After them were black limousines with little Spanish and Vatican flags fastened on the front hood. Those must be the diplomats. And finally, we saw him. A little man in white, siting in the glass dome of his Popemobile. He was seated high up for all to see. As he came down the ramp, we were the only ones there. He looked at as, smiled and waved with both his hands. We waved back as he continued down the highway.
You could not describe a more joyful scene than those 40 youth standing on the roadside waving at the man they traveled 7000 km to see. What was just a few minutes before a total disaster of a day was now the highlight of the pilgrimage. That morning we were reminded why it was that we came.
Why do I tell you this story? Because I think it illiterates what we celebrate in the Church today. Today is Gaudete Sunday. The word “Gaudete” is Latin for “Rejoice”. The Church in her wisdom knows that advent can be the most busy and stressful time of the year. We began two weeks ago to plan how we were going to celebrate the coming of Our Lord at Christmas.
We have been buying presents, planning great feasts, visiting relatives, and helping the poor. We have been preparing ourselves spiritually, through prayer, confession, and Mass. But in the midst of this preparation, we can become so focused on all that we have to do that we forget the reason why we are doing it. Just as all the bad things that happened that morning in Madrid made us forget why we were there, so too all the business before Christmas can make us forget what we are preparing for.
So to help us, the Church this Sunday asks us to stop what we are doing, and think of why we are doing it. The Church wants us to lift our heads from the worktable and look towards one week from now. What we see is a child lying in a manger. What we see is Christ at his first coming. What we see is Christmas.
That is why today the Church tells us to “Rejoice.” Almost everything in Mass today speaks of rejoicing. We light the rose coloured candle on the advent wreath, and the priest wears rose vestments because rose is a colour of joy. The readings speak of rejoicing. The first reading from Isaiah, says, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord.” Mary in today’s Psalm says, “My spirit rejoices in God my saviour” and St Paul in the second reading commands us “My brothers and sisters, rejoice always”.
The Virgin Mary, St. Paul, and the prophet Isaiah, had all seen Christ. Isaiah saw him coming in the future, for he was a prophet. Mary saw him when he came, for she was his mother. And St. Paul saw him after he returned to heaven, for he was a convert. All had seen Christ in their own way, but for each the result was the same, “Joy”. They cannot help but rejoice after meeting their Lord. And they can’t help but speak to us about it.
We are no different from them. You and I are planning to meet Our Lord in a week from now when he comes at Christmas. Not only that, you and I are planning to meet Our Lord in a few minutes from now when he comes in the Eucharist. If we truly understand who it is we are meeting, then we can do nothing but Rejoice. Our Lord is coming, our saviour is coming, our God is coming, so we must rejoice.
That summer morning on our pilgrimage in Madrid our entire group had become frustrated, discouraged, and questioned why were even there. When we looked up to see the Pope waving at us we remembered. If today you feel tired and frazzled from all your preparation for Christmas than today look up and see what you are preparing for. And if you keep your eyes fixed on that point then all your work, all your preparation, will no longer be tiresome but a joy.
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