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Saturday, December 14, 2019

Catholic Joy

Deacon Pat Kearns 
3rd Sunday of Advent 
Is 35:1-6a, 10, Mt 11:2-11 

Catholic Joy 

 Today we light the 3rd Advent Candle. In many traditional Advent wreaths, there are three purple candles and one rose-colored candle. The rose-colored candle is reserved for the third Sunday of Advent. It is different from all the others. This particular candle symbolizes “Rejoicing”. Let’s explore in a little deeper way, the meaning of this 3rd Sunday of Advent and listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah, allowing the words to settle upon our hearts.

• Strengthen the hands that are feeble.
• Make firm the knees that are weak.
• Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!
• Here is your God; He comes with Vindication, with Divine recompense.

In other words, God comes to “make-up” for what is lacking in our lives. And finally: He comes to save us!

Advent is a time of expecting and waiting. For some, it is simply a time of shopping and preparing for the exchange of gifts at Christmas. But for Catholics, it is a time with a much deeper meaning. Advent is a time to take a closer look at our lives, especially in regard to our preparedness for Christ’s coming. As Christmas approaches, we acknowledge the beauty and gravity of that gift of our Lord who humbled himself to take on our humanity. That gift, indeed, is beyond our complete understanding and will remain a mystery to so many of us. We also acknowledge that He will come again and that when He returns, that will be the end, the end to life as we know it. However, we must also realize, that HE is also here now, this year, this week, this day, and at this very moment. And why is He here? He is here to save us! So my question to all of you is, what do we need saving from?

• How are our hands feeble?
• How are our knees weak?
• What are our fears?
• What wrong do we need Him to set right?
• How are we blind?
• What is it that we cannot hear?
• In what ways are we lame?
Advent is a time to think about those questions.

Another important question to all of us comes from the depths of a prison, the prison where John the Baptist suffered in Herod’s palace. The same place where John sent his followers to ask the Lord: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another? Bishop Fulton Sheen said that John was discouraged and perhaps even close to despair when he acted in such a way. John had spent his whole life waiting for the coming of the Christ, and now that he had come, or so he thought, he still suffers in a prison. Can’t you imagine why he might have thought?

• Is this really the Christ?
• Is this really the one that I am being called to die for?

And how does Jesus respond to John? Jesus states: “Look at all the wonderful things that are happening to the people around here.

• The Blind are seeing,
 • The deaf are hearing,
 • The dumb are speaking,
 • and the lame are leaping.”

And then Jesus states: “The poor have the good news preached to them.” What does this mean? Who are the poor that He speaks of? We are the poor. “It is us!”

When we truly acknowledge our faults, our inequities, our short comings, and realize just how poor we actually are; and when we reach out for Him, the one who has been faithfully waiting for us to respond, then and only then, our world begins to change. A transformation begins. Something so very special is set into motion. He hears our thoughts, our prayers, and then He begins to shine His light onto us during our hours of desperation. He begins to fill us with wisdom and peace in places where there had only been confusion. He begins to show us the tiniest ways to begin to unravel the knots that we have wrapped around us through repeated bad choices and sinfulness. But we have to reach out for him, we must look in His direction for our answers. Yes, this seems so very simple, but not unlike John, we might also experience doubt at times. We might question our faith, especially when we are frightened, hurt, and worn down by trial after trial. Honestly: haven’t we all questioned, either in our thoughts or at least in our actions:

• Are you the one?
• Should we be looking somewhere else?

And how many of us have, and are still looking somewhere else for the answers? How many of us are seeking peace, joy, and love in all the wrong places? How many of us seek love, but settle for lust? How many of us seek joy, but settle for cheap pleasure? Seek satisfaction, but instead, merely feed our greed? Seek wisdom, but then listen to fools. Seek true beauty, but instead, latch onto what only makes us uglier. Seek intimacy, but settle for less.

Yet, as we reach out for God, choose to look toward him for the answers, we are then touched by a ray of light, a grace, a sense of warmth, an idea, an understanding, a promise of hope and wonder that is Christ, the Christ that is the One! We begin to yearn and hunger for what is pure and true. We begin to make changes in our lives; we throw away the lies and deceptions as we come clean with the Sacrament of confession. We suddenly discover within ourselves the ability to make choices that are different than what we had been accustomed to in that lost cycle of habit. Our behaviors begin to change, we begin to meet new friends, we begin to grow closer to God, to the Church, and then, all of a sudden we find a deeper meaning and understanding in the liturgy, the Mass. We begin to see our participation with heaven and the spiritual world. We progressively transform into the person that we were created to be by God. We experience love, joy, and peace. We see beauty where we had never noticed it before. We find ourselves drawn to the scriptures, because maybe for the first time, they now become alive and directly speak to us. As we receive Holy Communion, the Eucharist now joyfully burns within us as we truly realize who that it is we have just consumed. We begin to taste in our lives the fruits of the Spirit that Saint Paul spoke of: Love, Joy, Peace, and Patience. We become kind and generous. And all of this begins as we have chosen to turn to God, to Christ for the answers.

This is the Joy that is behind the Rose-colored candle. The joy of the third Sunday of Advent. It is the message of hope and salvation. It is the understanding that, YES, we are the poor. And that we have heard the good news preached to us. We have found THE ONE we are looking for.

As we begin to embrace our faith, our beautiful Catholic faith, and we realize the treasures of the Sacraments; we can then begin to joyfully understand the eternal rewards of being a Christian, and… Just how truly rich…we are!

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