+ HOMILY +
Third Sunday of Advent
15 Dec 2002
FR. ROB HANKEE
ST. MALACHY CATHOLIC CHURCH

Rejoice! Christ Will Come Again!

       Today is Gaudete Sunday. Now, since I am not a Latin scholar, nor did I take Latin in seminary, I cannot tell you what the word means. But I do know this. It marks the halfway point in the season of Advent. The rose colored candle signifies to us that there is something different about today. For the last two weeks, we have spent our time preparing and waiting in joyful anticipation for Christmas day. And now, as the first reading from Isaiah tells, we rejoice. We rejoice becomes the moment of truth is near. Christ our Savior is here and he will come again in all his glory. Gaudete Sunday is a day of great rejoicing for the "Spirit of the Lord is upon us ,he has anointed us, and clothed us with the robe of salvation". This is the promise of Jesus. A promise given to those who have the courage and faith to see and hear the truth of his Gospel of life. And so, it is with great faith that we rejoice in God's promises, for his promises are true.

       Truth is not a perception. It is what it is. It does not change because we may want it to. What does change is our perception of truth. How we see it. How we hear it. Do we see and hear the truth according to our own desires, or own will? Or do we accept it for what it is? Truth is constant. It does not change. If it did, then it wouldn't be true.

       I had a teacher in high school who was fond of saying, "I see the things that people don't see, and I hear the things that people don't hear". In fact this was his response to a student who would try to defend or rationalize their misbehavior. Generally, this left the student speechless, either the student couldn't find an argument with what the teacher said or the student had no idea what this teacher was saying.

       "I see the things that people don't see, and I hear the things that people don't hear". Of course, what the teacher was telling the student is that he recognizes the truth, and no amount of rationalization is going to change the truth. He saw what the student did. He heard what the student said. The student can plead all he wants to, but it's not going to change the truth. Truth does not change.

       John the Baptist came to give testimony to the truth. He is the voice of the one crying out in the desert, "Make straight the way of the Lord". The priests, Levites, and Pharisees all came to John and questioned him. They wanted to know who he was. These were men of great knowledge. They read and studied the scriptures, studied the prophets. They should have known who John was. They knew that the prophet Isaiah foretold of a lone voice coming from the desert. They knew that there would be one who would come and proclaim that the Messiah is near. The priests, Levites, and Pharisees, they saw John baptizing people with water. They heard him proclaim the coming of the Messiah. The truth was presented to them as the scriptures and prophets said it would be. Yet, they still had to question who John was. "Are you the Christ?", "No", "Are you Elijah?", "No", "Are you the Prophet?", "No", "Then, what do you have to say for yourself?" The priests, Levites, and Pharisees they did not want to see or hear that John was the one whom the prophet Isaiah spoke about, "the voice of the one crying out in the desert". They were given the truth, but it didn't fit in with their own desires or will, their own perception. Perhaps, they felt a bit threatened by it. Perhaps, they feared that they would lose some sense of control or authority. Whatever the reason, we know that they rejected it. As St. John the Baptist tells them, "there is one among you whom you do not recognize."

       As Christians who see and hear the truth, we do what St. Paul exhorts us to do-to rejoice, praise, and give God thanks. To remain open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and listen to the teachings of Christ. To retain what is good, and refrain from every kind of evil. Of course there are those who will point out that Christians do not always do this. In fact, there are those who will say that this is why they do not come to church. That Christians talk a good talk, but do not always walk it. And the truth is, they are right. As Christians we do not always rejoice and give thanks to God. We are not always open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. We do not always retain what is good, and we do not always refrain from every kind of evil. But as Christians we are not afraid of the truth. We are not afraid to look within ourselves, admit our failings, and ask God for his mercy. So, we come to church to see and hear the promises of God. To know, that despite or own failings God always remains faithful to us. That it is Christ who came to baptize us with the Holy Spirit. We see on Christmas day, in the baby Jesus, God's great plan of salvation. A plan that continues to be carried out each day. We know this is true because we see it and hear it with the eyes and ears of faith.

       And so, this is a great day of joyful celebration, of giving God thanks that he has opened our eyes and ears to his truth. A truth that goes beyond the things of this world. A truth that leads us to the gates of heaven. We are Christians who see the things that the world doesn't see, and hear the things that the world doesn't hear. Let us give thanks that we continue to hear the voice of the one crying out in the desert, "make straight the way of the Lord'. Let us give thanks that we see and recognize that Christ is among us-that He is here with us in this Eucharist and in each other. That he will come again. We rejoice because his promises are true. +



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