Too Serious to Take Seriously

(Homily for Third Sunday of Advent - Year B)

Bottom line: John the Baptist tells us to take life seriously - in light of eternity. And St. Paul says to not take seriously the disappointments of life - instead, to "rejoice always."

Someone (perhaps G.K. Chesterton) said, "Life is too serious to take seriously." This seems like a strange saying, but it sums up the message of this Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Guadete - or Rejoice - Sunday. John the Baptist tells us to take life seriously - in light of eternity. And St. Paul says to not take seriously the disappointments of life - instead, to "rejoice always." We Christians can rejoice even when things go bad because we see the true point of human existence.

This life is serious. We are here to make a choice where we are going spend eternity. A person will either join the saints with God in heaven - or separate himself eternally from God in what is called "hell." St. John the Baptist confronts us with this choice. As people say today, he gets in our face. A voice crying out in the wilderness, he says: Prepare the way of the Lord. Repent, he tells us, make a new beginning, turn back to God. And he speaks about a great winnowing fan that separates the wheat from the chaff. The chaff will burn in a fire that does not go out. This is serious stuff. You and I have to choose where we will spend eternity.

This Sunday I am making available a booklet that will help understand the seriousness of life. Its title is: God Reveals The Six Classes of People and the Reality of Hell. This easy-to-read book that will catch a young person's eye. Beginning with a story that dramatizes what Jesus has done for us, it then speaks about the choice each one has to make - and it gives a sobering description of the reality of hell. I recommend it. The booklet will bring home the seriousness of life.

This life is serious because how we live it determines where we will spend eternity - and eternity is a very long time. Let me make a comparison. Perhaps you have attended a birthday party where the candle contains a surprise. When the person blows on the candle, it goes out - but then the flame suddenly pops up again. Our lives are like that. Death appears to end one's life, but we will immediately re-appear before God. You cannot extinguish a human soul. We are destined to live forever. The question is: where will you and I spend eternity?

In comparison to eternity, this life is like the blink of an eye. No matter what a person suffers in this life, it shrinks to zero when measured against eternity. For that reason, St. Paul could say, "Rejoice always." St. Paul suffered horrible things: hunger, disease, poverty, sleepless nights, betrayal, shipwreck, scourging, imprisonment - even snakebite. You name it; St. Paul suffered it. Yet he said, "Rejoice always." He knew life is full of pain and disappointment, but he did not take those things seriously - precisely because of the overwhelming seriousness of life.

More and more we see our world divided into two groups: On the one hand, those who maintain that life has no eternal meaning, that when we die, that's all there is. These people cling to any passing pleasure - and if life gets too painful, they want to end it. On the other hand, are those who believe - as we do - that this life is a dress rehearsal for the main event. Even when things seem tedious and frustrating, we know it is worth effort. We can rejoice in spite of present hardships.

Bishop Sheen expressed this in an amusing way. He observed that some people wake up and say, "Good morning, God!" but that others say, "Good God! Morning!" Well, I admit I am sometimes in the second category, but I want to be more in the first. This Sunday St. John the Baptist invites us to take life seriously - as a preparation for eternity. And St. Paul tells us to not take seriously the disappointments of life. Instead, to "rejoice always." And maybe even join those happy souls who wake up and say, "Good morning, God!" Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say it, rejoice!

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General Intercessions for the Third Sunday of Advent, Cycle B (from Priests for Life)

Spanish Version

From Archives (Third Sunday of Advent, Year B):

2014: Preparing Our Hearts Week 3
2011: Joy is a Decision
2008: Too Serious to Take Seriously
2005: The Secret of Happiness
2002: To Heal the Brokenhearted

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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