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Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 61:1, 10-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28

 Everybody enjoys a good party, particularly the young, and the phrase "party on" has become a favorite among those who like to be happy and have a good time. Many people forget that as Christians, we have an obligation to rejoice. The Word of God invites us to believe, but God also invites all believers to rejoice. On this, the third Sunday of Advent, the Church reminds us of this invitation. That is why the third Sunday of Advent was called “Gaudete Sunday.” “Gaudete” is a Latin word for “rejoice,” and it is taken directly from today’s second reading: "Rejoice always."


Paul says that our obligation to rejoice is commanded by God, a command that we are supposed to keep at all times and in all circumstances. It is not a conditional command that we keep only when things are going well with us. However, the command to rejoice, like every other command, is demanding. The difficult economic times that we are facing reminded me of an incident that occurred in my hometown when I was a boy. A family in town, who thought themselves very prosperous, and I guess they were, had to face a very difficult problem. Their father had come home from work and announced to the family that they were broke. His business partner had cheated him and run off to South America with all the firm’s funds. That very evening their mother went out and sold most of the things in the house. She then spent all the money on a huge party and invited the whole town.


People criticized her for reckless spending at a time when poverty was staring her and her family in the face. But she told them that "the time to rejoice is now, when we need it most, not next week." Her actions rallied the family and gave them the hope they needed to face the future with confidence and trust that God was in control. Today, Saint Paul is telling us to do the same thing. Paul tells us to rejoice always; in all circumstances, give thanks, for this is what God wants us to do. At all times and in all circumstances, we must rejoice, pray, and give thanks. However, in my little town, not everybody went to this family’s party. I remember some people saying that they were out of their mind. Some said they even deserved what had happened to them. And I don't remember my parents taking me to the party.


But as a follower of Christ, I have come to learn that life is not always a party. Therefore, our hope is not in this life alone. For this reason, we are able to rejoice, in good times and in bad, as Jesus himself did. Next, Paul tells us what we must never do, what we must avoid at all costs. "Do not stifle the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test everything; retain what is good. Avoid any semblance of evil.” Yes, we must not stifle the Spirit; the whole town should have gone to their party. As humans, we have a material and a spiritual life. Some of us pay all our attention to the material, neglecting the spiritual dimension. You can see it in the way we prepare for Christmas. We have much to do, yet we seek to hear God's voice. We are anxious over many things, yet we look forward to the coming of Christ among us. We are God's people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light. To this we simply say, "Come, Lord Jesus, Come!"

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