TEXT: 3rd Sunday of Advent, December 15, 2019
3rd Sunday of Advent
December 15, 2019
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
The impeachment of President Donald Trump is a very troubling thing,
no matter how you look at it.
And people do look at it differently.
They approach it from very different perspectives
–and come to very very different conclusions.
For example, on the one hand,
many people have for years seen Trump as
an evil person, a bigot, a liar, a scam artist,
and so tend to see the accusations against him as entirely believable,
and many are eager to accept them as true
and see them as high crimes and misdemeanors.
On the other hand, many people have come to see Trump as
a flawed but heroic figure, sometimes crude and prone to hyperbole,
but plainspoken, and a champion for the things that make America great.
And so they tend to see all these accusations as exaggerations and fake news,
a plot to overthrow their votes.
And then there are still others, who see the good and the bad in complete truth,
and they make an entirely fair and just judgment.
You, know, people like you and me.
It is fascinating, how people, good and bad,
can approach the same objective reality in different ways,
and come to very radically different conclusions.
The same thing happens with Christmas.
People clearly approach it in very different ways,
and so understand it completely differently.
Some approach it from the perspective of
materialism, consumerism or simple personal satisfaction of appetites,
in the spirit of greed, avarice, and envy.
And so Christmas is all about the gifts, and the fun, the immediate gratification.
Others approach it from the perspective of
sentimentality, emotional feelings of love and belonging,
and so Christmas is all about real but fading affection for family and friends,
and a genuine but passing goodwill toward strangers and even enemies.
Others approach it from the perspective of altruism,
giving to the less fortunate and those in need,
either out of true generosity or out of guilt.
And so Christmas becomes about one’s annual acts of charitable giving,
and serving the poor,
but lacking in true and lasting love that goes on to change lives,
of both the givers and the receivers.
But for us, we must come at it from a wholly different perspective.
And that is what Advent is all about
—approaching Christmas from the right perspective.
In today’s Gospel Jesus asks,
“What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?
Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing?
Then why did you go out? To see a prophet?”
Advent is about the “going out to see,” and what we are going out to see,
and why we go out to see it.
Advent is sort of our perspective on Christmas, how we approach Christmas.
So that as Christians, Advent as a time of correcting
our false understandings of Jesus, our wrong attitudes toward Him.
Seeing that He is not just one aspect of Christmas, like Santa Claus.
He IS Christmas.
And He’s not just a cute little baby that stirs familial and human sentiment,
He is the Creator of the Universe who stripped Himself
of the glory of heaven and became a vulnerable little human baby
so that He could grow and tell us the truth about God and ourselves.
He is the Almighty Author of life who took on a frail human life
so that He could teach why He gave us life
and how He created it to be lived.
And His is the Supreme and Only Living God,
who is alone worthy of the worship and adoration of the whole universe,
and yet became a man so He could suffer and die for our sins.
And so Advent is a time to approach Him completely differently
than anything else in our lives.
A time to give and receive, but first to receive what He gives us—Himself—
and to give ourselves back to Him.
A time to love, but not with a love that is merely superficial or sentimental,
but with the love the Christ gives us, His own perfect love,
and so love Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength,
and love one another as He has loved us.
A time to care for those in need, but not just because it makes us feel good
but because we recognize that Jesus loves them as much as He loves us,
and so we delight in sharing with them because we love them.
And none of this can be passing, but must be rooted in
the eternal God born in time in Bethlehem,
and it must go on and on, every moment of our lives.
Today is Gaudete Sunday, or rejoice Sunday.
It stands as a stark reminder to us that although all of Advent is a time of joy,
it should also be a time of sadness.
Again, that is not the perspective most people have.
But it must be ours.
Because while we rightly look forward with expectant joy
toward the celebration of Christmas,
to really understand and appreciate what this joy is all about
we first need to understand not only what Jesus has done for us,
but why we need Him to do it,
and why we are not worthy of Him doing it.
And that is where we find the sorrow of Advent
—sorrow for our sins, the times we’ve failed to love Him,
when He always loves us so much.
In today’s gospel Jesus tells John the Baptist’s disciples:
“the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”
In Advent we realize that He’s talking about us.
We are spiritually blind
—too often we don’t see Him who is the light of the world.
We are spiritually lame
—we do not walk with Him who is the way the truth and the life
We are spiritually lepers and unclean
–too often we walk in or even wallow in the filth of the world.
We are deaf
–how many times to we fail to hear His voice, and follow Him?
We are spiritually poor
–as we store up treasures of the world,
but not the true treasures of heaven.
And sometimes we are even spiritually dead,
as we do all these through deadly, or mortal sins.
And so Advent begins in sorrow,
but sorrow filled with hope, and so enlightened by joy.
Some ask, how can we do this—have both joy and sorrow at the same time?
The answer is simple, and at the heart of Advent:
Advent is forming ourselves in the perspective of one
who is loved by Jesus and who loves Him in return.
And anyone who has loved, even on a human level,
knows that only in true and deep love do you find
the greatest joys and the greatest sorrows in life.
And so we feel sorrow, because all too often, instead of loving Jesus,
we have chosen to be spiritually blind, lame, unclean, deaf, poor
and even dead to Him.
But at the same time, in spite of all that, we see Him coming to us,
to heal us from all our sins and vices,
to give us not just life, but life in abundance with Him.
Life is often all about perspective—about how we approach things.
In this holy season,
let us be careful not to approach Christmas from the wrong perspective
—the perspective of so much of the world around us,
of materialism, or sentiment or even empty altruism.
But rather let us recognize and live Advent for what it truly is meant to be:
the way we form the correct perspective about Christmas,
the way we approach Christmas from the right direction.
Remembering Jesus is what we go out to see, Jesus is why we go out.