Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption by Deacon Jerry Franzen
Zephaniah 3:14-18a Philippians 4:4-7 Luke 3:10-18
"Praised Be Jesus Christ. Good Morning."
Thursday evening I attended a Christmas band and choral concert
at Scott High School in Taylor Mill.
The performers were a mixture of students
from Woodland Middle School and Scott High School.
Two of my grandchildren were performing in the band portion.
The second to last selection was entitled “Adventum”,
an instrumental composition by Jared Barnes.
That name, “Adventum” piqued my interest;
it sounded like a Latin term connected to Advent.
Before beginning that selection, the conductor mentioned
that it would eventually be a bit loud; that made me wonder.
It started softly with the melody of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”
played on flutes and woodwinds;
the volume grew as it transitioned
into the Carol of the Bells played by the whole band
with lots of percussion,
It was loud by the end.
I thought: ”What a metaphor for Advent?” –
a somber beginning of asking for Christ to come
leading to the bell-ringing joy of His arrival.
Today is Gaudete Sunday – Gaudete, a Latin word for “Rejoice!
Rejoice, the day of Christ Jesus is coming.”
Why are we rejoicing, when for the last two Sundays
we have heard that Advent is not just about the birth of Jesus,
but more so also about the final Day of Judgement
when he will come as Christ the King?
Rejoice about the end of the world? Come now.
The simple answer is that we are to rejoice that
we are past the halfway point of this season of preparation.
In the first reading, the prophet Zephaniah was telling the Israelites
that even though God had let them suffer in exile
because of their unfaithfulness,
God had removed his judgement against them.
Zephaniah also reminded the Israelites that God was with them
to renew them in his love.
They were to sing joyfully, as one sings at festivals.
For us the same is true.
We may feel exiled from God by our sins.
To shout with joy is difficult in times of struggle with our sinfulness;
it goes against our feelings and our perceptions.
We cannot forget that God is with us and comes to us every day
in many ways, but especially in the Eucharist.
We are not stuck in the bog of sinfulness.
Every time we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation,
we come away with our sins forgiven,
ready for the end of our life to join God in heaven.
Jesus came to earth to accomplish that forgiveness.
Let us Rejoice and sing joyfully.
This is all enhanced in the second reading.
St. Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord always,
not every now and then, but always.
How can we rejoice always unless we are ready always?
Regular reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation
will do the trick.
It removes the anxiety of where will I be at the final judgement,
on the left or the right, with the goats or the sheep,
wheat in the barn or chaff to be burned, in heaven or hell?
We can aim to be free from serious sin at our death,
to be all set to be with God for eternity
by regular reception of the Sacrament.
That is the Peace of Christ.
Jesus came to earth to bring us that Peace, the Peace of Christmas.
Let us rejoice and sing joyfully
We heard from Zephaniah, who spoke to the Israelites
six hundred years before the birth of Christ.
He spoke of God’s presence within them and
his forgiveness for their sinfulness.
God was present within us in human form as His Son, Jesus,
and remains with us and within us in the Eucharist.
We also heard from St. Paul years after Jesus left this earth.
The Philippians were told to not have anxiety,
to make their requests to God
in prayer, petition and thanksgiving.
Jesus came to bring the peace of God,
which surpasses all understanding.
Let us rejoice and sing joyfully.
And then St. Luke, also years after Jesus left this earth,
gave us words about what happened among the people
shortly before the beginning of Christ’s ministry.
They were expecting the Messiah,
whom they thought would free them from Roman oppression.
John told them to prepare by acts of love, sharing with others,
treating others justly and rightly with respect.
He said that one mightier than he would come,
the long-awaited Messiah.
Then he told them something that they would not understand
until the day of Pentecost
about three years in the future for them.
They would be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
They would rejoice in the Lord’s presence among them
and they would follow the Spirit
in preaching God’s love and His plan for us.
Let us rejoice and sing joyfully
In this season of Advent, we can get off focus and
miss the point of the season.
We get so overwhelmed with all of the parties,
gifts to buy and wrap, cards to address and send,
that we may miss the person of Christmas.
We might ask ourselves a few questions:
Is there joy in our hearts, because this is the celebration
of the remembrance of the birth of the Son of God,
who has provided for us the way back to the Father?
Are we seeking, like the people in today’s readings,
more ways to welcome Him into our lives every day?
Do we realize that for Jesus’ mission to be complete in us,
we must cleanse our hearts of sin?
Do we celebrate the birth of the person who is the King of our lives.
Do we see Christ in others?
Will love or just obligation be the reason we do things for others.
I find peace in the notes of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”,
the comfort of the peace of Christ,
because I know that He HAS come to me, to us.
I also found joy in the “Carol of the Bells” as the musicians rang out
the joy that God has provided me and all of us
with a path to salvation.
May each of you find peace AND joy
as we move closer to Christmas.
Come, Lord Jesus, come!
And let us rejoice and sing joyfully!