Bottom line: What looks random does have behind it a plan - and a Planner.
As you can see from our Advent Wreath - and from my vestments - today's color is pink, symbol of rejoicing. I've noticed this at gender reveal parties. If blue balloons come down, the parents try to look happy, even jump up and down, start hugging each other. Still, they are thinking: maybe we'll do better next time. (smile) Blue is OK, but pink is the color of rejoicing.
On my pink vestment you can see an appropriate saint: Rose of Lima. Next week I'll be visiting her shrine. It has a famous well where people can drop notes with prayer intentions. I'll be taking yours.
This year I'll be at the Mary Bloom Center for Christmas and New Years. Part of the reason is so college students and teachers can take advantage of their winter break. Replacing me at St. Mary of the Valley is a fine priest - Fr. Alfredo Velazquez. The last five months he has served at St. Pius in Mountlake Terrace. We are blessed to have Fr. Fredo.
With Christmas near, today is a day to rejoice.
It does seem ironic that on this day of rejoicing we have the Gospel about St. John the Baptist is prison. John appears sad, even despairing. About Jesus he asks, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?" Even John wavers. Commenting on today's Gospel, Bishop Daniel Muggenborg observes:
"To a person of faith, the witness of God's love and providence is abundantly clear. To a person who lacks faith, life is nothing but chance and coincidence."
If person concludes that everything is random chance, it's bound to have an effect. So many people feel like they are living in a dark prison. You can see it in the increase in addictive behavior: drugs, porn, gambling. These things promise peace and maybe even provide a moment to forget one's problems. In the end they bring increased emptiness.
This happens also with social media. Sean Parker, one of their billionaire investors, acknowledges that Facebook and other platforms are deliberately designed to be addictive.
I admit I spend time on Facebook. When I am in Peru it's one of my main ways of communicating. It's free and it works pretty well, but I know it can absorb a lot of time and work like a drug.
Along with addictions comes depression and for some, suicidal thoughts. In spite of our abundance, freedom and opportunities, suicide has increased dramatically - even among young people who have everything to live for. There's a lot of reasons but much of it involves what Bishop Mueggenborg points out - a lack of faith that leads to despair. What's the answer?
Let's consider Jesus response to John: Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
During Advent we focus on connecting with the downtrodden and afflicted. We had things like the Christmas Giving Tree, Catholic Community Service testimony, St. Vincent de Paul commitment renewal. Outreach has formed part of our youth program both for Confirmation candidates and Ignite Nights. When we reach out to the afflicted - even in our own families - it turns our hearts to God.
St. Teresa of Calcutta, when she noticed her sisters showing signs of sadness, would say "get out with the people".
You don't need an addiction-free life to come to Jesus. Some saints struggled all their lives with addictions and terrible depression. Like John the Baptist, however, they recognize that what looks random does have behind it a plan - and a Planner. God has a plan, a providence we can know by faith.
Young people want that faith, that trust. You can see it in this year's most popular Scripture verse. I was going to conclude with it, but I will save it for a Flocknote this week. Instead let's listen again to St. James' inspired words:
"Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth... You too must be patient." Amen
Homily Resisting Happiness Week 3: Delayed Gratification - with Catholic Community Service Testimony (Audio homily for Third Sunday of Advent, Year A 2016)
Faith & Truth (Audio homily for Third Sunday of Advent, Year A 2013)
From Archives (Homilies for Second Sunday of Advent Year A):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New episodes for Ordinary Time leading up to Lent*
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru