Again this week, we won’t be meeting “in person”–the best we have been able to do in this time of pandemic is the monthly, or so, Zoom Mass with our next one being, Christmas Eve. But for now, we are to Gaudete Sunday, part-way through this season of mounting joy as we await the coming of our brother Jesus, who, as my friend, Fr. Jim Callan of Spiritus Christi Parish in Rochester, NY is fond of saying, “is coming and coming and coming throughout history.” If we were to reflect on nothing more than this for the entirety of Advent, that our God is coming and wants to continually come into our lives, we would have ample to think on…
All the readings for this Sunday of Rejoicing (definition of Gaudete), reflect this sense of joy. May each of you, as you prepare for this wonderful feast of Christmastime know the joy that only our God can bring! Notice that I said, “Christmastime,” as we celebrate officially for 12 days, but every day is really “Christmas” from a certain standpoint, because what this feast is really all about is the over-the-top love of our God for each of us and that is something we can celebrate all year long!
My continual prayer for each of you is that you would stay safe and well in this time of pandemic as we await the vaccines. Please continue to mask and social distance as it will take some time to get everyone the vaccines that they need. If I can help you in any way, please do not hesitate to be in contact, by phone, 507-429-3616, or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. –Pastor Kathy
Rejoice always in our God—let us say it again—Rejoice! God is near!
Let Us Pray
Creator God of Jesus, the Christ, ever faithful to your promises and ever close to your Church: the earth rejoices in hope of the Savior’s coming and looks forward with longing to his return at the end of time. Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope which his presence will give us for he is our brother and friend, forever and ever—Amen.
- Isaiah 61: 1-2, 10-11
- 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24
- John 1: 6-8, 19-28
My friends, the Latin word, “Gaudete” means, rejoice. Throughout this Advent Season; we have been on the cusp of rejoicing and with this Sunday; we are given full permission to do just that! The whole of Advent reflects on the mounting joy that we as a people should come to with the realization that our God loves us enough to want to be, “one-with-us”, Emmanuel.
All of our readings for this Sunday speak of this joy as we come to fully see this truth that our God wants nothing more than to be among us, showing us the way, through Jesus, to be our best selves, sharing with all our sisters and brothers who inhabit this beautiful earth with us.
The prophet Isaiah proclaims that this loving God will be present—visible, that is, first, to the poor. God will show mercy to the “broken-hearted” and “liberation to those in prison.” Jesus, the most perfect manifestation of this merciful God thought this prophecy of Isaiah was so important that he announced the beginning of his ministry in his hometown of Nazareth in the synagogue by quoting this very prophecy of Isaiah.
Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians continues Isaiah’s prophecy; in effect, telling us how we should be in the world by encouraging us to, “accept only what is good” and “avoid any semblance of evil.” He concludes his instruction with a blessing; “May the God of peace make you whole.”
We move to John’s gospel this week for a clearer picture of just who the Baptist, also, by name of John, truly was. John the Baptist names the One to come after him, “the strap of whose sandal he is not worthy to loose, ‘the Light.’” And in these times of darkness from a virus within, taking thousands of lives daily in our country and around our world, to viruses without; racism, sexism, clericalism—to name but a few; when did we ever need, “light” more?
John the Baptist is said to be, “a voice crying in the wilderness—make straight our God’s road.” The image of someone, “crying in the wilderness,” is a most poignant one for me at present due to a situation that I encountered recently of which I will speak to in a general way.
Probably all of us during this troubling year—2020, that has included COVID 19 and separation from family and friends in order to keep us all safe, racial unrest—precipitated anew with the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day, and a most contentious presidential election, have been part of discussions with family and friends over these issues. I believe there is a great divide in our country over these topics, to the point that family members and friends have at times been unable to even talk with each other due to an impasse around these issues.
Probably the most egregious aspect, in my mind, in these impasses has been the fact that our president has stoked the flames of unrest rather than try to bring about peace.
I raise this issue today because recently I found myself thrown into a discussion with people that I have considered friends who were unable or unwilling to discuss a “bombshell” dropped on us by one within our group of friends concerning how we should see, “the absolute fraud” of our recent presidential election. And what made this so difficult was the passion of the person trying to claim, what in my mind is pure fanaticism which has been rejected across this country in court after court as baseless.
And what makes a situation like this so hard to deal with is the fact that groups wanting to remain intact will refuse to express any truth to the contrary in order to “save the group” from imploding upon itself. I have in fact done this in the past—said nothing, in order to, “protect the group,” but this time I felt a need to speak against the message being laid upon us for the reasons I expressed above. I felt like John, “as one crying in the wilderness.” And the equally sad part, as I reflect on this, is that this person most likely feels that they are too, “crying in the wilderness.”
One of the side effects of telling lies—something our president has been found guilty of in almost every day of his 4-year presidency is that there are people, too many people, who for whatever reason, believe him and will go to any lengths to support him as is apparent in his and their protracted appeals to have the election overturned in his favor.
As David Brooks, a traditionally conservative columnist for the Washington Post spoke of it recently, and I paraphrase; there is no talking to such individuals—I have tried—they are emotionally entrenched and logic and facts will not dissuade them. One just has to let them eventually see it, if they can.
So where does that leave someone who is trying to follow Jesus who encourages us to see, “the face of God” in all that we meet? I must say that it leaves me most perplexed and I can only ask Jesus to show me his “light” to adequately find my way through.
Perhaps some “light” for me and others comes in Paul’s words today to the Thessalonians, “Accept only what is good,” “avoiding any semblance of evil.” In my position as a pastor, writing to you to hopefully, “spiritually uplift, and to challenge,” I struggle to remain non-partisan and the only way that I can teach, as it were, is to repeat what Jesus said so often, “Check the fruits.”
If your action or the actions of others bring peace—for the most part, a willingness to care for others beyond oneself, and a sense of overall, well-being; I believe we can name that as, “good.” If not, then perhaps, we are not, “avoiding any semblance of evil.”
So my friends, my apology to each of you for reflecting out loud in this homily, but I thought that perhaps there was value for you as well. In conclusion; I think it is a good reminder that Jesus’ entire ministry was about bringing life and life to its fullness. And once again, Paul’s blessing, in that light, rings true—“May the God of peace make [us] whole.” Amen? Amen!
Prayers of the Faithful
Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
- O God, bless our Advent waiting—help us to prepare simply for your coming among us and share abundantly your gift of love with others, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
- O God, may the wisdom and grace of the Spirit overshadow all elected leaders to be people who will truly work to care for the least among us and strive to bring peace to our world, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
- Loving God, give each of us health of body, mind and spirit–especially help those struggling in any way today—give each one your strength and wonderful gift of peace, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
- For those in our community who have less than the basics of life, help each of us O God, to be challenged to do what we can to make a difference in their lives, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
- O God, as we come to the end of a year and look forward to a new one with new beginnings, let us strive to be people of peace, not war—help us to turn some ways of thinking on “their heads,” we pray— Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
6. Loving God, be the strength for what each of us most needs in life, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
- For our community, All Are One, give us welcoming hearts to be open to all who come to us, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
- Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week from COVID and all other causes—give them your peace, that they may find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
9. Loving Jesus, in this Season of Love, unite hearts in our country around all that is good and true—help us to heal broken hearts by speaking truth to power, we pray—
Response: “Come, Jesus, Come.”
***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts and for each other—pause, then response
Let Us Pray
Loving God, fill each of us with your goodness—goodness that can see beyond our own needs to the needs of others. As we prepare for your wonderful coming among us, let our hearts always to be open to new ideas, ways we haven’t thought of yet to make our world better. As you came simply into our world, help us to search out ways to live more simply in order that we can be good stewards of our planet. Surround us constantly with you love and mercy and help us to respond to our world through these same gifts. We ask all of this of you, Creator, Savior, Spirit, God, who lives and loves us forever and ever, Amen.
Let Us Pray—Again, we can’t be physically present to each other, nor receive the bread of the altar, but please know that Jesus is with us—each one, each and every day!
Prayer of Communion
God of wonderful mercy, may your divine help, free us from all that clutters our way to you. Prepare us for the birthday of our Savior who lives among us, always and forever—Amen.