Homily for Almost Christmas: 12/17

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

Audio for homily

Happy holidays! Happy Holidays!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

It’s the hap-happiest time of the year!

Well, that’s what the songs say but for many, the reality may be different.
• If you tear off the bright ribbons and wrappings of Christmas,
you might uncover some sadness underneath...
• If you look closely behind all the quick and easy holiday smiles,
you might find a few tears, tracing a trail down worried faces…
• As you listen to Christmas music,
you might hear hearts echoing the pain of loneliness and loss…

For many, this season is a pretense, a posture: a presumption
that we’re all supposed to feel and act in a particular way,
-- in a particularly joyful way.
For many, that’s very difficult; for some it’s nearly impossible.

So St. Paul’s words today might come, then, at just the right time.
- even if what he wrote might seem more a part of the problem
than the solution.
Remember these words from the second scripture?
Rejoice always! Pray without ceasing! In all circumstance give thanks!
That’s a tall order,
especially if you find the holidays to be a difficult time.

But it’s a tall order that might serve us very well.   Rejoice always!
In the hard times, on the most difficult days, on the loneliest of nights,
rather than sitting with the sadness / and losing ourselves to grief,
we might search our hearts for the memories and stories
of joy that has been ours.
We can savor those memories
and invite them to lighten our heavy hearts,
to shine like a candle against the darkness.
We can always rejoice
if we learn to remember, recall and treasure
the joys that have been ours.

And Paul counsels us to pray without ceasing!
Well, some people might be just plain tired of praying,
tired because they’ve prayed for so long
for someone, or for something or for themselves
and it seems that God’s not answering  - maybe not even listening.
But no prayer ever leaves our hearts and lips without God’s hearing it
even those unspoken prayers,  hiding in our hearts' silence,
when we don’t know how to pray:
God hears every prayer we make.
God might not answer quickly or in the way we want,
but prayer always has the potential to draw us closer to the Lord,
who knew, himself, what it was to cry out
when it seemed that no one answering, that no one was listening.
We may not readily receive what we pray for
but every prayer can draw us closer to God’s love.
In fact, God’s presence and companionship
are actually the first answer to every prayer.

And Paul writes: In all circumstances, give thanks!
No matter what the situation, in good times and in bad,
we need to thank God for what we have, for all that we’ve received,
even and especially,
when we find ourselves needing, wanting, asking for more.
When we’re truly grateful for all that we do have,
the list of things we think we need can often quickly shorten.
As it is with our joys, so it is with our gratitude.
I may not be joyful today and I might be in need today,
but we all have a history of God’s goodness to us
and for which we have reason to give thanks and praise.

Rejoice always!  Pray without ceasing!
In all circumstances, give thanks!

Let’s stop for a moment and close our eyes…
and remember something joyful in our lives,
something we’re grateful for…
And in prayer, let’s thank God for that joy…
And hold that joy in your heart for a moment…

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!


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