Fr. Tony’s 8-Minute Homily
The Princess of Wales seated in her bridal gown at Buckingham Palace after her marriage to Prince Charles at St. Paul’s Cathedral (PA/PA Archive/PA Images)
The third Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudete Sunday” because the Mass for today (in its original Latin text), begins with the opening antiphon: “Gaudete in Domino semper” –“Rejoice in the Lord always.” To remind ourselves that we are preparing for the very joyful occasion of the birth of Jesus, we light the rose candle in the Advent wreath, and the priest may wear rose vestments. The common theme of the day’s Scripture readings is one of joy and encouragement. The readings urge us to make the preparations required of us as we await the rebirth of Jesus in our hearts and lives. Holy Scripture reminds us that the coming of Jesus, past, present, and future, is the reason for our rejoicing.
Select one or two of the following illustrations to insert here. View more by clicking on the “ILLUSTRATIONS” tab above. Feel free to insert more throughout the homily if so desired (but this should not be overdone).
Scripture Lessons Summarized
Fr. Tony’s unabridged edition for this section can be found by clicking on the “COMMENTARY” tab above. Feel free to include more detail if so desired.
The Prophet Isaiah, in the first reading, encourages the Jewish exiles returning from Babylon to rejoice because their God, Yahweh, is their strong Guide, Provider and Protector. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Luke 1:46 ff.) Mary rejoices in the great blessing given to her, exclaiming: “My soul glorifies the Lord; my spirit finds joy in God my Savior.”
St. Paul, in the second reading, advises the Thessalonian Christians to “rejoice always” by leading blameless, holy and thankful lives guided by the Holy Spirit, because Christ’s second coming is near, and he is faithful in his promise to reward them.
Today’s Gospel tells us that John the Baptist came to bear witness to Jesus as the Light of the world. The Baptizer wants all the Jews to rejoice because the long-expected Messiah, as the light of the world, will remove the darkness of sin from the world. We rejoice at the humility of John the Baptizer, who tells the Sanhedrin members challenging him that he is unworthy even to become the slave of Jesus the Messiah. We also rejoice in the sincerity and commitment of John who spent himself completely in preparing people for the long-awaited Messiah. We have an additional reason to rejoice because, like John the Baptizer, we, too, are chosen to bear witness to Christ Jesus, the Light of the world.
Fr. Tony’s unabridged versions can be found by clicking on the “LIFE MESSAGES” tab above. Feel free to include more detail if so desired.
We need to bear witness to Christ the Light. Our mission, as brothers and sisters of Christ and members of his Church, is to reflect Christ’s Light to others, just as the moon reflects the light of the sun. It is especially important during the Advent season that we reflect Christ’s sharing love and his unconditional forgiveness through our lives. There are too many people who live in darkness and poverty, and who lack real freedom because of their evil addictions and bad choices. There are others who are deafened and blinded by the cheap attractions of the world. Many others feel lonely, unwanted, rejected, and marginalized. Let us bring the true Light of Christ to illumine the lives of all these brothers and sisters during this Advent season through our sharing love, overflowing mercy, unconditional forgiveness, and humble service. We will be able to accomplish this witnessing mission of radiating Christ’s Light only by repenting of our sins, asking God’s pardon every day, and by renewing our lives through our daily prayers, by frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation, by attending and taking part in the Eucharistic celebration, by reading the Bible daily in meditative, prayerful fashion, and by performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy where we see these are needed.
Fr. Tony’s Illustrations
Alice in Wonderland (1:45) — Alice falls into a rabbit hole
Alice in Wonderland experience
When Alice fell through the rabbit-hole into Wonderland, she was convinced that she had fallen right through the earth and was destined to come out where people would be upside down. She referred to such reversals as Antipathies—though she did wonder whether or not that was the right word.
Alice may not have chosen the correct word, but she was on target when it came to identify the way we feel when our world is turned upside down — that is, of course, when the reversal that we experience resembles the collapse of the stock market. We would be overcome by entirely different emotions if we had won the lottery.
When she finally landed, Alice discovered that the world was not upside down, but it certainly was out of proportion to her size. She had to change, to get smaller in order to enter that mysterious world.
The Third Sunday of Advent invites us into a world of reversals, a world where the captives are freed, where the hungry are filled and where the rich are sent away empty. It is certainly a world where things are turned upside down. From the point of view of social order, such reversals could be considered Antipathies. But from God’s point of view, they are the signs of transformation.
In order to appreciate the strength of today’s message from Isaiah, we must remember that he was speaking to people who were dispossessed, people in need of a message of hope, a promise of some kind of economic reversal. This same description of reversal is found in the passage from Luke. There we see that the lowly enjoy the blessings that God promised long ago.
Dianne Bergant – Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
There is a story told about a man from Louisville, Kentucky, who had to travel to St. Louis on business. This was years ago when Christians kept Sunday as a very special day. For this man, “keeping the Sabbath,” also meant not riding the trains on Sunday. Thus, after he finished up his business late Saturday night, he had to stay over in St. Louis until Monday morning.
On Sunday morning, he left the hotel looking for a place to worship. The streets were quite deserted, but finally he saw a policeman and asked him for directions to the nearest Church. The stranger thanked the policeman for the information and was about to walk off when he turned and asked the policeman: “Why have you recommended that particular Church? It looks like a Catholic Church. There must be several Churches nearby that you could have recommended.”
The policeman smiled and replied: “I’m not a Church man myself, but the people who come out of that Church are the happiest looking Church-people in St. Louis, and they claim that they have received Jesus and they are happily taking him to their homes. I thought that would be the kind of Church you would like to attend.”
The Scripture for today reminds us that every Sunday in every Christian church must be a Gaudete Sunday or “Rejoice Sunday.”
(John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
Would you mind handing in the broom?
There is an old story of a small boy who was asked on a dark night to go out on the back porch and bring in a broom. He was afraid. There was no light out there. And he frankly told his parents that he was scared of the dark.
His parents reassured him, “You don’t need to be scared. God is everywhere. He is with you even in the dark.”
So the boy went to the back door, opened a crack, and whispered, “God, if You’re really out there, would You mind handing in the broom?”
None of us enjoys the dark, and if we, with all of our scientific knowledge and understanding of our world are still uneasy about darkness, just imagine how infinitely worse was the plight of primitive people. To understand the force of Jesus’ claim to be the Light of the world, we must remember just how much light meant to people in ancient times.
Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
Soap and the Gospel
A soap manufacturer and a pastor were walking together down a street in a large city.
The soap manufacturer casually said, “The Gospel you preach hasn’t done much good, has it? Just observe. There is still a lot of wickedness in the world, and a lot of wicked people, too!”
The pastor made no reply, until, they passed a little child with dirty linen, making mud pies in the gutter.
Seizing the opportunity, the pastor said, “I see, that, soap hasn’t done much good in the world either; for, there is much dirt still here, and many people with dirty linen are still around.”
The soap manufacturer said, “Oh, well, soap only works when it is applied.”
Then the pastor said, “Exactly! So it is with the Gospel.”
Fr. Francis Chirackal C.M.I. – Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
The film, Pay it Forward
The film, Pay It Forward, (based on the novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde) has a premise that underlies the source of joy and happiness celebrated in today’s liturgy. It tells the story of a seventh-grade teacher (Eugene Simonet) and his eleven-year-old student (Trevor).
On the first day of class, the teacher puts this challenge on the blackboard: “Think of something new that will change the world and then act on what you have thought.” The idea captivates the boy, who lives with his single parent, an alcoholic mother. The boy attempts to put this idea into practice by helping people, who will, in turn, “pay it forward” by helping others.
The boy draws a circle in his homework book and puts his name in the middle. From that circle, he extends three lines, at the ends of which are three more circles.
- In the first circle he writes his mother’s name. He will try to get her to give up her alcoholism.
- In the second circle he writes the name of a classmate who is being bullied by the larger boys in school. He will make it his duty to defend this fellow.
- In the third circle, he writes the name of his teacher, whom he will try to persuade to fall in love with his mother.
These are huge challenges for a seventh-grade boy. The film then shows the steep obstacles he faces in his attempt to improve his world.
In the end, Pay It Forward inspires us with the possibilities of making the world a better place by transforming one person at a time through a series of “random acts of kindness” and love. The movie teaches us that when someone does a good deed for us, we should “pay it forward” by making “an act of faith in the goodness of people.”
The net result is lasting peace and joy, the common theme of today’s readings.
Fr. Francis Chirackal C.M.I. – Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
Fr. Tony’s Life Messages
We need to bear witness to Christ the Light
By Baptism we become members of the family of Christ, the true Light of the world. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” Hence, our mission as brothers and sisters of Christ and members of his Mystical Body, the Church, is to reflect Christ’s Light to others, just as the moon reflects the light of the sun.
It is especially important during the Advent season that we reflect upon and radiate Christ’s unconditional love and forgiveness everywhere. There are too many people who live in darkness and poverty, and who lack real freedom. There are others who are deafened and blinded by the cheap attractions of the world. Also, many feel lonely, unwanted, rejected, and marginalized. All these people are waiting for us to reflect the Light of Christ into their worlds and to turn their lives into experiences of joy, wholeness, and integrity.
The joy of Jesus, the joy of Christmas, can only be ours to the extent that we work with Jesus to bring joy into the lives of others. Let us remember that Christmas is not complete unless we show real generosity to those who have nothing to give us in return.
(Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
What should we do in preparation for Christmas?
The Jews asked the same question of John. His answer was: “Repent and reform your lives, and prayerfully wait for the Messiah.” This means that we have to pray from the heart and pray more often. Our Blessed Mother, in her many apparitions, has urgently reminded us of the need for more fervent and more frequent prayer.
- Let us remember that the Holy Mass is the most powerful of prayers. We must become a Eucharistic people, receiving the living presence of Jesus in our hearts so that we may be transformed into His image and likeness. We encounter Jesus in all the Sacraments.
- Regular monthly Confession makes us strong and enables us to receive more grace in the Eucharist.
- Let us also listen daily to God speaking to us through the Bible.
- Perhaps, we may want to pray the rosary daily and fast once a week all year round, not just during Advent and Lent. After all, we sin all year round, so why not fast also all year round?
- Let us also find some spare time to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
- Let us forgive those who have offended us and pray for those whom we have offended.
- Finally, let us share our love with others in selfless and humble service, “doing small things but with great love” (Mother Teresa).
As we prepare to celebrate Christmas and the coming of God into our lives, we need also to remind ourselves that we have been called to be the means of bringing Jesus into other people’s lives.