13 DEC 2009

       SHOUT FOR JOY - SING JOYFULLY - BE GLAD AND EXULT: These exhortations in our first reading by the prophet Zephaniah are a great way to describe how we should be celebrating the anticipation of the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we proceed on through our season of Advent, we shift focus in our Eucharistic celebration these past two Sundays, from the end of our liturgical year to waiting joyfully for Christmas and the celebration of the birth of our Savior.

       On this the third Sunday of Advent this specific reading fittingly expresses the spirit of GAUDETE Sunday. Gaudete, meaning to rejoice, is identified by the color Rose or some people see it as Pink. The third of our four Advent candles represent this color and helps us to focus on the change of our tone of celebration during Advent. Zephaniah is encouraging his listeners to sing and be glad because God comes not to judge but to save and “renew” us with his love.

       In our 2nd reading today from Saint Paul to the Philippians he is encouraging us also to rejoice. In this particular passage he is trying to instill in his listeners and subsequently, us with the one key idea that ''the Lord is near''. Whether we celebrate the Lord’s presence at the end of time, or at Christmas, or in the Eucharistic celebration: Our attitude should be the same: We should await his presence with profound ''joy'', ''Peace'' and the absence of ''Anxiety''. Saint Paul also encourages us to pray and make your requests known to God.

       In our Gospel reading today John the Baptist is asked specific questions on what to due in specific circumstances. He does not dance around or give vague answers. He gets right to it and tells them directly what they should do. He does not stand on ceremony but just tells them ''share with the person who has none… Stop collecting more than is proscribed…Do not falsely accuse…'' This was truly a man who saw things the way God wanted us to act. He put it out there in his answers and his preaching and made no excuses for the way God expected us to act towards one another.

       John was preaching with great expectations and the people who listened wondered if he was the Christ. He famously answered, ''No, he was not the Christ, that he was not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals''. John was on a mission to baptize all comers to the faith. He was preaching the word of God with such conviction that people were led to believe that someone greater than he was to come. I would venture to say that most of us feel the same as John did, that we are not worthy. I am also just as confident that if we had the opportunity to be with Jesus, in person, that we would welcome the chance to assist him in any way possible.

       I mentioned that John was on a mission. His mission was to preach and to baptize. You know we are all called to be missionaries. Some are called to world wide traveling missions; some are called to a mission closer to home. Through the centuries of our Catholic faith missionaries were martyred and persecuted for their beliefs. In these modern times people in distant countries are still being martyered and persecuted for their faith in the one true God.

       We are all called to spread the Word through different channels in our daily lives. The Word, the Gospel way of life is lived and spread daily through out our lives here locally at St. Malachy. ''God is Love'' and through his love we are able to help families of our sister parish, St Andrews, to have a Merry Christmas that they otherwise might not have been able to have. We spread our love through our mission trips to St Marguerite in Haiti. We live the Gospel mission by seeing that those in nursing homes and the home bound receive communion at least weekly by many volunteers on a mission to bring the Eucharist to those who would not otherwise be able to receive it.

       Some times we act in a group setting and other times we act one on one. This past weekend I had the opportunity to witness our Pastor Father Joe accept a man into our religious faith community after some one on one Catecheses, with a parishioner, and the help of our Religious Ed staff. He presided over the Eucharistic celebration in a special Mass, and after the homily, the man made a profession of faith and received his first Holy Communion.

       He received it right here and now he has been accepted into the full communion of the Catholic Church here at St.Malachy. The gentleman is not able to leave his home because of long term physical and medical conditions but he has been looked after by some parishioners and he had expressed a desire to become a Catholic. This weekend, his wish and desire was met, because a handful of people were on a mission to provide for this man all that we hold dear in or Catholic faith.

       In this Year of the Priest as declared by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, I believe it is important to recognize that our Priests are on a mission also. They have made a lifetime commitment to helping us all come to a deeper understanding of our faith and to share their pastoral training and guidance with us through the sacraments. We are asked to keep them in our prayers and to continue to pray for more men to be open to the calling of the life long mission of the priesthood.+

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