Sunday, December 11, 2011

Homily for 3rd Sunday of Advent B

Today we celebrate Gaudete Sunday. It is so called because of the Introit assigned to our Mass on this Third Sunday of Advent. The first word of the introit in Latin is Gaudete, which in English is Rejoice!

We have much reason for rejoicing, for our God is coming. We heard hints of that in today’s Gospel passage. One greater than John the Baptist is coming after him. How does one explain the excitement that this bold statement should invoke in the hearts of Christians? Not only did Jesus take on flesh and walk in the land of Galilee, but he continues to be here with us today. Christ is here because two or more are gathered in his name. Christ is here because he is present in the Word that is proclaimed. Christ is here in the person of the priest. Christ is here in a most special way in the Eucharist. Christ is here. There is truly reason for us to rejoice.

Let’s look back at the beginning of today’s Gospel:

A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.

John came to testify to the light. He’s not talking about the light coming from the fixtures overhead. He’s not talking about the light from the sun or the reflected light of the moon. He’s not even talking about the light from the candles we have burning near the altar. John came to testify to Christ who would be the light of truth in the world.

One can often ask how can we see that light? It is not like the light we see from the sun or the many other sources I’ve mentioned, or we’ve experienced. It is an internal glow that makes itself manifest in the way that we share Christ though our lives. That light is the love between us and our lover, between Christ the bridegroom and his bride the Church.

In the first reading from Isaiah, we hear the prophet proclaiming:

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.

As that light of truth burns in our hearts, that spirit of God comes upon each of us. We are disciples of Christ. Disciples means those who are sent. We can go out and take care of the needs of others because we know Christ in our hearts and he gives us the courage to make an impact on those around us.

How does one nurture the light of truth in one’s heart? The first is to spend time with that Truth. I mentioned earlier about Christ’s presence here with us at Mass today. When we spend time in the scriptures, not only at Mass, but at other times of the day or week, we grow in our understanding of the light sent into the world. If we spend time together, focused on prayer, we are opening the door for Christ to speak to us. When we celebrate the sacraments regularly, we give energy to the light of truth and faith that is burning within us. When we receive Christ in Holy Communion, and when we spend time praying before him in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, we fall more completely in love with the one who is that light in the world.

On this coming Tuesday, we celebrate the feast of St. Lucy, martyr and virgin. There are many legends surrounding this saint whose name means “light”. Stories recount how she had become a Christian and had a deep love for the Lord. Her mother had made arrangements for Lucy to marry a pagan. Lucy, having made a vow of virginity, and dedicating herself to God, was able to convince her mother to give the dowery to the poor. It is said that her betrothed found this out and was told by a friend that Lucy had found a nobler Bridegroom. Her betrothed then had her handed over to the governor as a Christian. As such, as one of the stories reports, part of the torture she endured prior to her death was to have her eyes poked out. According to the legend, Lucy’s eyesight was restored by God. One thing we can be sure of, as Lucy faced torture and execution for being a Christian, the true light of her life, Christ, gave her courage and strength.

As the Church, we look to our Bridegroom to bring his light into our midst. One could ask, do we have reason to rejoice as we heard in the introit? Indeed, we do. Christ is coming. Our bridegroom is soon to return and claim his bride and take her to the place he has prepared for her.

As we look to the week ahead, perhaps we could call upon the intercession of St. Lucy to help us “see” the light of Christ in our selves and to help us share that light through our lives with others.

St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr, Patron of the blind, pray for us.
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