Advent Sunday3 (13 Dec 2009) Zeph 3. 14-18a; Resp Is 12; Phil 4. 4-7; Lk 3. 10-18
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Joy In Practice
I was ordained in Advent. My Advent-ordination reshaped me. The Advent scriptures invite us to allow Jesus reshape us. They began sounding the note of friendship, especially of God with us.1 Advent blossomed from friendship to glory, God present with us.2 Today’s readings sound the note of joy with particular passion: shout for joy...God rejoices over us. Rejoice in the Lord. Why? Because the Lord is near, filling us with expectation for our Messiah’s return with glory and salvation. Our expectation shapes our action: Now we watch for the day, hoping that the salvation promised us will be ours when Christ our Lord will come again in his glory.3
To watch for the day of our Messiah is the Christian disposition and attitude, daily attitude more than calendar watching. Advent sings over and again that God has befriended us to share God’s glory with us; to glory in our friendshipwith God and to rejoice in our share in living thenew creation. Our service to so many is how we putour Christian attitude in action. Your service to so many serves my priesthood.
I have no things to show for my years of ministry. I have people. Jesus put many people in my life who long to feel him and, feeling, know him. Living for his return seeks to feel the joy and hope of his presence in his Spirit now. Living for hisreturn looks forward with longing to his return at the end of time.4 Our desire to live for our Messiah’s return is God’s gift, not our ingenious, pious effort. That is reason to rejoice. We don’t try to produce God’s life—as if we could. We desire to open ourselves to God’s self-gift to make our hearts more supple; and to savor God’s kindness to us.
You teach me that God’s kindness to us is not our private gift. God transforms and renews us with divine kindness to be apostles of kindness in our living day to day. The gift of God’s kindness to us—loving us as we are; healing us; guiding us; reassuring us; forgiving us always; revealing God’s self to us throughout our days; and inviting us to extend God’s good news of Messiah Jesus in deed and word—the gift of God’s kindness to us we make real with our own lives.
You make real for me St. Paul’s reminder to us that our Christian kindness should be known to all. Christian kindnessbegins as humane behavior which Jesus’ Spirit gradually trans-forms into ever more selfless behavior. In other words, hearing Jesus’ words is not enough; nor keeping our friendship with him private. Christian kindness is concrete actions.
People who welcomed God’s forgiving, healing transformation into themselves from John the Baptizer asked what to donext. What shall we who are transformed by God’s love do? John was practical: share your clothing and food with thosewho have none; do not live greedily; do not extort, lie or accuse. Instead, grow satisfied with what you have. Satisfied maysound smug, but it’s not. Because possessions are extensions of ourselves, satisfied means growing content with whom Jesus has created each of us to be.
In practice it works this way. Whatever we may want to erase because we feel it taints us will have power over us as long as we insist we can overpower it. Accepting its presence is the beginning of feeling the joy and hope of [Jesus’] presence. Jesus presence transforms us with his friendship; his friendship allows us to show his kindness to others. This Year of the Priest includes all Jesus’ friends helping all of us to surrender ourselves to Jesus and continue to be transformed by him. Advent celebrates our triune God transforming us by giving us their friendship so we can make the effects of their glorymore available to one another and to all in the practical ways we practice our Christian joy.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, quiet yourself in the presence of the Trinity. Ask John the Baptizer to prepare your way to Jesus. Speak with Jesus: name your most in-tense feeling: sorrow; pain; joy; strength; doubt or need;ask Jesus to join you to carry it. Ask Jesus to help you recognize yourself in stronger, felt ways and grow more content as his friend; his modern day apostle, co-sharing his attitude. Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which Jesus gave us to help us bring his joy to everyone we meet—our practical grace.
- See the readings of the First Sunday of Advent.
- See the reading of the Second Sunday of Advent.
- Advent Preface I, which we use the first three weeks of the season.
- Words of the Alternative Opening Prayer of today.