Monday, December 15, 2014


Deacon Jerry Franzen           Cathedral – DECEMBER 15, 2014

Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11;       1 Thess 5:16-20;      John 1:6-8, 19-28

Good Morning
“The Lord be with you.”
R: “And with your spirit.”
That response is almost automatic.
This happens four times during each Mass,
          The Greeting, at the beginning of Mass.
          Before the proclamation of the Gospel,(we just did this)
          At the beginning of the dialogue before the Preface
          And before the final blessing.  
Most people probably say it without thinking about it.
In that response we pray that
the Lord will guide the spirit of the priest
or in my case the deacon.

An Episcopal priest once began the Sunday liturgy
by stepping to the microphone
in the sanctuary of a large church
and greeting the people by saying, “The Lord be with you.”
The microphone, although turned on, was not working,
because two wires were touching causing a short.
Because the sanctuary was somewhat removed from area
of the church where the people were seated,
they did not hear ”The Lord be with you.”
The priest, looking at one of the other ministers next to him
and realizing that he had not been herd,
tapped the microphone with his hand
and spoke to the other minister.
He did not realize that his tapping the microphone
had separated the crossed wires,
and all in the church heard his statement
 to the other minister loud and clear.
 He had angrily said,
“There must be something wrong with the microphone.”
The people gave their patterned response,
 “And with your spirit.”

We are fast approaching Christmas;
it’s time to inquire into the nature of our spirit.


What should our spirit be at this time in this Advent?
Today is “Gaudete Sunday”.
 “Gaudete” is Latin, meaning “Rejoice.”
It’s the first word of the Entrance Chant for today.
The whole Entrance Chant, which could be sung,
if we had no gathering hymn is:
“Rejoice in the Lord always;
again I say, Rejoice! The Lord is near.”
We are to rejoice
because we have passed the half-way point of Advent.
(Today even gets a special color of vestments.
Our rose-colored vestments are meant to lift our spirits,
even if they haven’t been lifted enough
by all of the commercial anticipation of Christmas.)

All of that should set the tone for our spirit
for this, the Third Sunday of Advent.
The first two readings have the message that
should help to mold our spirits.
There is little doubt that Isaiah is happy to be a prophet.
He has been chosen to bring a message of salvation
to his people.
You can tell that St. Paul is likewise very upbeat
with a similar message for the Thessalonians.


 St. Paul says: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
Paul says that it is God’s will that we always be happy,
that we always pray and that we always give thanks.
Three parts: happiness, prayer and thanks
 – separate yet connected.
What determines whether we are happy?
Is it just a matter of feeling good, feeling comfortable?
“I’m happy, if I feel happy.”
I feel happy that I’m retired
and don’t have to go to school anymore.
No more work to bring home.
Some feel happy that their Christmas shopping is finished.
Not I!
It’s a time to enjoy the food and drink of the season.
Not I again, if I want to continue to lose weight!
Many feel happy because it’s getting closer to Christmas.
Ah, just thinking about those much-wanted gifts.
“I’m happy, if I feel happy.”

But I can feel happy, and not be really happy,
just like I might feel healthy, and not really be healthy.
I may have some health problem that has not manifested itself.
Happiness is not to be confused with pleasure.
Pleasure is a transitory delight;
happiness is a more enduring peace.

For me, in the past the pleasure of freedom
during the Christmas break was always tempered
with the reminder of a spring semester to come.
Holiday parties end abruptly on January 1.
Those much wanted gifts are soon just ordinary possessions.
Many truly happy people have limited pleasures;
many with the most pleasurable lifestyles are grossly unhappy.

Remember, Paul connected “rejoicing always”
to prayer and giving thanks.
True biblical happiness, worthy of true rejoicing,
is rooted in our relationship with God.
On our part that relationship is prayer, joyful prayer
which includes worship as we do here each Sunday,
personal prayer
and all the actions of our lives which we offer in prayer.
Paul says, “Pray without ceasing.”
Make all that we do our prayer.

God’s part in that relationship is redemption,
sending his Son to be among us.
And it is for this that we must always rejoice in thanksgiving.
Paul says, “In all circumstance give thanks.”


 Then, what is the true reason for rejoicing
 at this time of year?
True happiness is not something we seek
so much as it is a gift from God.
We may rest joyfully in the assurance of God’s care.
Isaiah rejoiced heartily in the Lord.
Christ is the spirit of God that was upon Isaiah.
Christ is the glad tidings,
the healing , the freedom, the salvation.

Christ is the gift we receive in the Word, in the priest,
in the assembly and in the sacrament at each Mass.
Jesus stood up in the temple
and read that very prophecy from Isaiah.
After he finished reading he said,
“Today that prophecy is fulfilled in your hearing.”

So, what is the character of your spirit this Advent?
Are you puzzled because you haven’t found the right gift
for Aunt Mary?
Are you annoyed because there is not enough time
 for all the usual holiday activities?
Are you worried about whether
 you will get everything you want for Christmas?

We must accept the happiness that God has given us as a free gift.
We must prayerfully share that gift of Christ with others.
Quit grabbing for happiness through pleasure; you can’t hold it.
It will escape you.
Thank God for it.
Paul says, “Do not quench the spirit.”
Our continual search for pleasure quenches the spirit.
Allow God’s gift of his Son to reign in your heart.

The happiness of this gift from God began for us with Christ’s birth.
Go back to that entrance antiphon,
 which incidentally is taken from
 St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians;
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say,
                   Rejoice!  The Lord is near.”
Rejoice because the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled today
in your hearing.