Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent
(Readings for today's liturgy)
Audio for homily
Be patient, brothers and sisters…
you, too, must be patient…
So writes St. James to us this morning.
By December 12, parents know that patience may be in short supply
for themselves and for their children as December 25th approaches.
For kids, Christmas can’t come quickly enough.
For older folks, sometimes it’s December 26th that we long for.
Of course, St. James wasn’t thinking about Christmas
when he urged us to be patient.
Rather, he was mindful of the trials of life we all endure
as we wait, mindfully or unconsciously, for Christ to come again.
Just a few days ago I received an email from a parishioner
who’s been out of work for more than nine months
and has just found a job.
With his permission, I share with you some of his email.
During my 9 month search, I don't think I ever lost patience,
but I certainly had my emotional ups-and-downs.
- where am I headed? what should I do?
- should I try to start my own business?
- will potential employers wonder why I haven’t found a job yet?
- what if my next job isn’t challenging, isn’t rewarding?
- what if I have to take a pay cut?
I didn’t know what job would come my way - or when it might come.
And that uncertainty toyed with my emotions.
But, it was my faith that gave me enough patience
to get through this trying time,
certainly with more ease than if I'd had no faith to work with.
It’s interesting how this whole experience
made my faith grow stronger.
made my faith grow stronger.
I can now look back and see that God was answering my prayers,
even when no job was in sight.
God guided me, gave me strength,
took care of my family, made us more resilient,
prepared us to better handle stress in our lives --
and there will certainly be stress again down the road.
God gave me time to reflect on my life
and to tend to some relationships that needed my time.
I know there are many in our parish still searching for their next job,
many who have been searching longer than I did
and who are struggling financially more than I had to.
I hope and pray that their faith gives them the patience
to get through their own tough time,
because God does answer our prayers,
God does take care of us,
in his own way,
and on his schedule…
I share all of that with you because the man who wrote this
has a deep understanding of the patience
that got him through this past year.
When we’re faced with stress, with problems and disappointments,
with setbacks and difficulties - with the loss of a job -
there are two ways we might pray:
We might pray,
“O God, get me out of this mess as soon as you can!”
That’s a good prayer!
That’s a decent prayer, and one that jumps easily
from our minds and hearts to our lips.
That's a prayer for rescue.
Or we might pray,
“O God, I’m in trouble.
Please, walk with me, right by my side --
and help me get through this,
every stay of the way!"
That's a prayer for patience.
Both prayers are fine, but it’s the second one
that served our job hunting parishioner so well.
No matter how you pray, you need to wait...
But when you pray for patience
you wait with the Lord;
you walk with the Lord;
you search with the Lord;
you get to know him and yourself better;
you don’t wait alone -
you wait and walk through the hard times
alongside the best companion you could hope to find.
Our word “patience” comes from a Latin word that means to suffer.
Patience is less about hanging in there until the problem is solved
and much more about accepting the suffering of not knowing,
of being unsure, of being vulnerable
and inviting the Lord to suffer through that with us.
The Lord is less a head-hunter or employment counselor
and much more a shepherd -an extreme guide-
who always knows better than we
the way through, the way out of the forests
where we’ve lost our way.
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.
You too must be patient.
Make your hearts firm in the Lord…
Our hard times are often made more difficult
when we set our eyes only on the resolution of our difficulties.
Patience is living with our difficulties, in the company of the Lord,
trusting that with the Lord at our side,
we will find our way out of the woods,
a day at a time, a step at a time...
The one whose birthday we prepare to celebrate
is named Emmanuel and his name means, simply,
God With Us...
The Lord waits patiently for us every Sunday, at this table,
waiting to nourish us with his own life
that we might find the strength and the faith
to wait with him, patiently, through our stress and trials.
Patience with others is love.
Patience with ourselves is hope.
Patience with God is faith.*
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