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”!
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.
3rd Sunday of Advent – Year B
Fr. David Reitzel
Preached: Dec 17, 2017