Today we lit the third Advent candle. It is not violet, but pink – a color which symbolizes rejoicing. Today is called Gaudete Sunday from the Latin word, Rejoice!
This morning the world rejoices with the news of Saddam Hussein's capture. This news brings a particularly joy to my own family. You know that we have been praying for my niece's husband, Bob Lindenau, who was recently deployed in Iraq. Hopefully, the capture of Saddam will speed the resolution of that conflict. But, please, do not stop praying for all our soliders - and for the people of Iraq.
As a parish we have some reasons to rejoice. We are just completing the six week feasibility study. Many parishioners have participated in interviews, focus groups or have filled out the questionnaires. If you have not yet done so, you still have two days. In January and February our Parish Council will analyze the results in order to make a recommendation regarding the Master Plan for parish buildings – and whether to launch a capital campaign. The fact that we are addressing these urgent matters is a reason to rejoice.
Another reason is that before Christmas many people turn back to God. As a priest, I have seen it in confessions and other services. This week I will be sending letters to parishioners who have left Holy Family for whatever reason. The letter will invite them to “Come Home for Christmas.” So far I have received about twenty names and addresses. I know there are more. If you know someone who please write their name and address on a piece of paper and drop it in the collection or at the rectory office. Jesus tells us there is great rejoicing in heaven when someone returns.
St. Paul tells us to rejoice always – even when things are not going well. Someone who understood this was St. Francis of Assisi. Once he asked his companions if they knew what was perfect joy. They thought for a bit and one said, “a banquet with steaming hot food, surrounded by good friends.” Another said it would be a sunny day, taking a walk in a beautiful field. For a third brother perfect joy would be preaching a great sermon with everyone listening and admiring. Francis said “no” to all these suggestions but he did not say what perfect joy is.
The next day they entered a small town in Italy. The people gathered to hear Francis, but they did not like what he said. They began throwing things, then dragged them out of town and tossed them in a ditch. The brothers covered their head for fear the townspeople would throw rocks. But Francis lifted up his head and whispered, “This is perfect joy!”*
A person from our parish lived this joy in a remarkable way. Her name was Sharon Carriere. For most of her adult life she dedicated herself to the parish, first as a volunteer, then as a member of the staff. For the past twenty years or so she suffered from a debilitating disease called Wegener’s Syndrome which caused her great pain. But Sharon hardly ever showed it, always greeting each person enthusiastically, making them feel they were the most important.
Next Sunday we will celebrate a six-month Mass for Sharon. Her husband Duane and her children will be present. This will begin a second six-month period leading up to the rededication of the Ailbe House library in memory of Sharon. She was a beautiful example of what St. Paul said, Rejoice always!
Happiness does not depend on the state of ones health – or finances. It is possible to even experience anxiety and depression - and still rejoice. Mother Teresa testifies to that fact. She always had a beautiful smile, but often there was anguish underneath. In the process leading up to the beatification of Mother Teresa, they made public the letters she had sent her spiritual director. In them Blessed Teresa reveals that she underwent long period when she felt abandoned by God. I once had the opportunity of seeing Blessed Teresa up close. She gave a conference at a priests’ retreat I attended. Whatever she may have been suffering inside, she radiated joy.
There is a song which says: “Sometimes I am up and sometimes I am down. But still my soul feels heavenward bound.” Joy is not something we create for ourselves. We can only open our hearts to God and allow him to create true joy within us. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, Rejoice.
*For the original account see: Perfect Joy. My rendering was influenced by Kazantzakis.
Bulletin (Samwise at Paramount, Christmas Schedule, Stryker Brigade)
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Choice on Earth
From personal experience, I know that people write most passionately about virtues they wish they possessed. Mixed with jibes against his favorite betes noires, Fr. Andrew Greeley has some powerful reflections on forgiveness:
"Yet can people live forever as prisoners of such anger? Does not the rage continue the power the abuser has over the victim? Without giving up one's rights in justice, cannot one escape from the control of anger by beginning to forgive?...only forgiveness can free a person from hatred and rage. It is a tragic mistake to think that revenge does."