Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent: 12/15

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Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily 

Several years ago a parishioner sent me an email which,
with his permission, I shared with you once before.
I offer it again to you today as we hear St. James’ words this morning:
Be patient, brothers and sisters… you must be patient…
Those are the words of St. James;
here are the words of a brother parishioner who wrote to me: 

Dear Fr. Fleming,
As you know, I’ve been out of work for nearly a year
but just this week, thank God, I’ve found a job.
But you know, during my 9 month search,
I don't think I ever lost patience,
though I certainly had my emotional ups-and-downs.

I wondered: 
- 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 – and 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.
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 in my family of origin. 
I know there are others in our parish 
searching for their next job,
and many of them have been searching longer than I did
and they’re struggling financially more than I had to.

Still, 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… 

When we’re faced with stress of problems and disappointments,
setbacks and difficulties, unemployment and financial strain,
sickness, loss and grief --- 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:
it jumps easily from our minds and hearts to our lips.

Or we might pray,  “O God, I’m in trouble.
Please be with me, walk with me, right by my side  
 --  until I get through this.”

Both prayers are good, but it’s the second one
that served our job hunting parishioner so well.

The thing with the first prayer is
that it puts all the work in God’s hands:
“Fix this as fast as you can, Lord!”

The benefit in the second prayer is that while I’m waiting:
I wait with the Lord;
I walk with the Lord;
I get to know him and myself better;
I don’t wait alone - I wait and walk through the hard times
alongside the strongest and most patient companion 
I could hope to find.

Our word “patience” comes from a Latin word that means to suffer.
Patience is not so much "hanging in there until the problem is solved."
It's more about acceptance: 
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 not so much a head-hunter or employment counselor:
he's much more a shepherd, a guide, a friend, a companion,
a companion who always knows better than we
the way through the forests where we’ve lost our way.

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 Lord's company,
trusting that with the Lord at our side,
we will find our way out of the woods.

Jesus, whose birthday we prepare to celebrate, is called Emmanuel
which means, simply,  “God with us.”
God is with us in all our suffering, in all our waiting.
God’s grace is offered in our patience, as we wait.

And Jesus waits, too:
he waits patiently for us every Sunday, at this table,
waits to nourish us with his own life in the Eucharist
that we might find the strength and the faith
to wait with him, to wait with him patiently, 
through all our trials and stress.


Patience with others is love.
Patience with ourselves is hope.
Patience with God is faith.*

*Adel Bestavros


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