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3rd Sunday of Advent - December 16, 2018


Traducir al Español

By Deacon Jeff Mevissen

Happy Gaudete Sunday!  John the Baptist in the Gospel of Luke has a prescription for joy: be generous.  John says if you have abundant clothes and food then share with those who lacks clothes and food.  Is there a greater joy than being generous?  Think of The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  Think of how miserable Scrooge was when he had forgotten how to share and how joyful he was when he recovered his generosity.  John goes on to give advice to tax collectors: do not take money for yourselves.  There is a joy in serving people honorable that is not found in cheating people.  Likewise with soldiers, John advises not to use power to dominate people.  The Lakota People have a saying, “There is nothing stronger than true gentleness and nothing more gentle than true strength.”  There is joy in serving people with the power we have.

John the Baptist says the Lord will come to baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.  This prophesy is fulfilled for all who are baptized and confirmed. When Bishop Guglielmone celebrated Confirmation recently at St. James, he told the confirmandi that the Holy Spirit grants them great power to influence the world for the good.  Those who use this power will shape the world according to God’s plan.  Those who ignore the power of the Holy Spirit hand over the world to the forces of sin and chaos.  All of us who are baptized and confirmed have the power of the Holy Spirit if we choose to wield it.

 

John the Baptist says that Jesus will gather wheat into his barn but the chaff he will burn away.  This is a challenge for us to consider what is wheat and what is chaff in our lives.  The wheat is what is wholesome for in us – what is loving, kind, patient, generous, and thoughtful.  The chaff is what is proud at the expense of others, greedy, lustful, envious, gluttonous, lazy and wrathful.  We celebrate communal penance during Advent to be transformed by grace.  The image of the wheat and the chaff also reminds us to speak a prophetic word to our friends, family, and community.  The prophetic word supports the good in our brothers and sisters and challenges the evil we encounter.

 

Advent reminds us that the Lord wishes to transform our lives but sometimes this is very painful.  I was listening to the Good News Network on the radio and heard the testimony of a woman whose life was transformed in a single day.  Her uncle came to pick her up from school when she was about 10 or 12 years old.  The Uncle was solemn but would not reveal why he had come to fetch her that fateful day.  When they arrived to the girls home there were cars parked up and down the street and people filling the house.  A close family family friend took her aside and explained through tears that her father had killed her mother then took his own life.  The girl reeled at this news and looked back on this day as the worst in her life.  But she also testified that it was the day the Jesus left the pages of the catechism and came to her in her grief and anguish.  That day, Jesus became her savior.  That day, the girl realized she could not live without Jesus.

I love the Christmas song, Good King Wenceslas.  Wenceslas looks out of his palace on the Feast of Stephen, the day after Christmas.  He spots a peasant gathering wood for his home and bids his page to bring the King meat and wine to provide the man a hearty meal.  They head out into a bitter winter night and walk for awhile when the page cries out in desperation. 

 

Sire the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how, I can go no longer.


Mark my footsteps, my good page, tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage freeze thy blood less coldly.


In his master's steps he trod where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod which the Saint had printed.

My dear brothers and sisters, as the servant of Wenceslas found strength and warmth in following the steps of his master, so we find strength and encouragement in following the footsteps of our master, Jesus.  Let us follow boldly in the steps of Jesus, that this Advent we may be transformed by his Grace.