To Be a Happier Priest

(Homily for Third Sunday of Advent, Year C; Dec. 17, 2006)

Bottom line: An anniversary reflection: Seattle's power outage illustrates connection of light and joy. As I celebrate 35 years of ordination, I have many reasons to rejoice

Today we lit the third candle of our Advent wreath. Its rose color signifies rejoicing. These past few days we have seen dramatically the connection between light and joy. Many of our homes have been without light for one or two days. Little by little homes are getting reconnected. One family told me that when the lights came on, the children cheered. Probably some adults did too.

As we light the third candle of the Advent wreat, we can understand how increased light is a sign of joy. The prophet Zephaniah says, “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion.” Zion is the name of the hill on which Jerusalem is built. The phrase “daughter Zion” refers to whole people of Israel - and is also small prophecy of the Virgin Mary - the daughter of Zion, par excellence. So, rejoice Daughter Zion, you day is near.

St. Paul in his turn tells us to rejoice always. He makes the point even stronger, “Again I say it, Rejoice.” Then he says to have no anxiety, but in every circumstance give thanks. Some families told me that the power outage turned out to be a good experience for them. They took advantage of it with thankful hearts. So rejoice always. Give thanks in every circumstance.

For me personally I am giving thanks for 35 years of priesthood. You may have seen on the bulletin board a “then and now” poster which someone in the parish made. The top picture is obvious enough - it’s your pastor as I look now. The bottom picture shows a guy with a full head of hair, black-rimmed glasses, a full cassock with a red sash and blue piping. I looked and said, “Oh yes, that was me.”

Perhaps married couples have a similar experience. When they celebrate their 25th or 50th anniversary, they look at their wedding picture and say, “That was us.”

I feel that I have much to be thankful for - not so much any great accomplishments, but for God’s grace. When all is said and done, it is God’s doing. Yes, we have to take responsibility for our mistakes, but in some mysterious and beautiful way, all the good belongs to God. For that reason St. Paul tells us, Rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again, rejoice.

I am thankful to God also for you. These last ten years have not been the easiest ones for our parish - nor for the church in our country. But you have stuck with it and for that I am grateful.

These have not been the easiest years for me, especially with the death of my parents. I am grateful for your support during these past years.

Holy Family is a resourceful parish. I saw that ten years ago when I celebrated my 25th anniversary. That weekend we had the biggest snowstorm in a decade. Still, as I wrote in the bulletin, we had a memorable celebration.

You can see the parish’s resourcefulness this weekend with the power outage. Last night Father Ramon celebrated the opening Mass of Simbang Gabi - a Christmas novena, nine days of Masses. In spite of the darkness in the church, they had a beautiful Mass just using the light of candles.

Saturday morning, with the power still out, our St. Vincent de Paul Society gave out food and gift certificates for the poor in our neighborhood. St. Martha’s Sodality worked out contingency plans in case the power outage continued through Sunday morning - but thanks be to God, the electricity got reconnected., so we will have a nice breakfast after Masses.

All of that is a good reason for rejoicing. In conclusion, I would like to mention one more motive. In the Gospel St. John says that the one who has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. Now someone with only two cloaks might consider himself on the low end of the economic scale: one to wear and one to wash. But St. John tells him to share with the person who has none. There is a great joy in being able to share - which even a poor man can have. God has put into our hands something to share - time, abilities, material resources. That is a reason for joy. I am grateful good has given me some gifts to share in my 35 years as a priest. And I am grateful for your gifts which you put at the service of the Lord and the parish. All that is a reason to rejoice. Rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again, Rejoice.


Final Version

Spanish Version

From Archives (Homilies for Third Sunday of Advent, Year C):

2009: Joy as a Duty
2006: To Be a Happier Priest
2003: Profile in Courage
2000: A Priest's Examination of Conscience
1997: Rejoice Always!

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Fr. Barron comments on hell (YouTube, navigate with care)

Bulletin (New Crucifix, 35th Anniversary, Guadalupe Procession, Good News on Utilities Bill, Visit to Peru)


Pictures from the Mañanitas
(December 11, 2006; Holy Family Parish)


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