Sunday, December 16, 2012

Gaudete Homily - Time to Rejoice??? No Thanks!

Here is the text for anyone interested in that:

If you’ve ever been outside for a sunrise, you’ll notice something fascinating about the hour or so before sunrise.  Of course the sky starts out black, and then it fairly quickly gets light – usually a bright blue.  Then, as sunrise gets nearer, but still before you can actually see the Sun, the sky explodes into a symphony of rose colors…the same color as my vestment for today

The Church calls this Sunday Gaudete Sunday.  Gaudete is a command to have joy. …the color Rose denoting the fact that the sunrise is getting nearer, the Son of God stands on the edge of storming the beaches of this world as a fellow human person two thousand years ago, the celebration of which we will celebrate in a few days.

The first reading tells us to shout for joy with an exclamation point.  The psalm says “Cry out with joy”… St Paul says in the second reading not once but TWICE to Rejoice…again with an exclamation point.

And yet, especially today, there is a temptation to say “No Thanks”.  Priests are people, and so like you, I’ve spent a lot of time the past 24 hours thinking about and praying for the people in Connecticut, trying somehow to make sense of something that can’t ever make sense. 

The Catechism has an absolutely beautiful passage I came across yesterday: “Our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice and death, seem to contradict the Good News; they can shake our faith and become a temptation against it.”

How true!  How easily such events can shake and test our faith.  So many begin to ask questions in times like these “how can an all-loving God let this happen?”  

But even when people start asking that question, we already start to see the sky turning rose – because people who, hours earlier, would have said they didn’t believe in God, who hours earlier would have said that science can’t prove there is a God so there’s no such thing, such people begin asking questions about the God that they hated just hours ago.  

“Rejoice!  I say it again, Rejoice”  This weekend is Gaudete Sunday, and St. Paul and the Church urge us to be people who REJOICE.  St. Paul, in saying REJOICE, was not writing from a cruise ship in the Bahamas, he was writing in a society that was equally accustomed to barbarous atrocities and evils with our own time – St. Paul cries out for us to rejoice not because things are always perfect, in fact that is why it is a command – REJOICE! It is a command because sometimes we can’t summon the energy to do it on our own, and so we must be told.  

And the call to rejoice is especially important IN THE MIDST of atrocities, like the one we face now, because it is at times like this that people are looking for answers from us.

I saw a picture on the news last night of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newton, CT, and not only could you not get in the Church for Mass, you could hardly find a place on the front lawn of the Church.

So precisely when the demons in Hell are celebrating what they perceive to be yet another victory of senseless violence, people are flocking to God, even if they are angry, even if they are confused, they are flocking to him.

And what do those who flock to him find?  What do all the people standing on tiptoes last night to catch a glimpse of the Eucharist SEE when they flock back to God???  John Paul II says it best in his AMAZING letter on suffering…He says: “They see a God on  the cross who is himself suffering, and who wishes to answer the question “why is there suffering” from the Cross, from the heart of his own suffering”  That is why I think it is completely ridiculous and a lie to pretend that the cross without Christ’s body on it means anything.  Some churches would have us act like suffering is over, the cross is over, but Catholicism says NO – Christ suffered, God suffered, and still suffers, and that MEANS SOMETHING FOR US WHO ARE SUFFERING TODAY.  I have a crucifix in every room and every hallway and everywhere I can to remind myself of this fact when I am suffering – I remember that HE suffered to, and suffers still through our pain, and so although I don’t walk away with every answer, I know I’m united to God during difficult times.

What did the tiptoeing Mass attendees see and hear last night, they saw Christ on a cross, and they heard Christ’s words acknowledging his suffering.  To know that Christ suffers and shares in our suffering is a game changer and it is the good news –
The Gospel could possibly be summed up in these words: “Christ changed suffering from meaningless to holy” even if suffering still doesn’t make sense to us

And that is why the Church says REJOICE, not because violence has ended, but because God has taken evil and brought good out of it

"Rejoice in the Lord always!  I say it again, rejoice."  Today is Gaudete Sunday around the world, it is Gaudete Sunday in countries where Churches are routinely bombed, it is Gaudete Sunday in Rwanda, it is Gaudete Sunday in Churches where young and old are starving and are victims of extreme poverty, it is Gaudete Sunday in Newton Connecticut, and it is Gaudete Sunday in Indiana.

I was running at the Y this afternoon, and I saw where some residents of Newtown have decided to take their Christmas decorations down because they feel guilty celebrating anything.  I certainly understand what they’re saying, but I think the Church’s solution is better.  The Church tells people all over the world, those in areas of famine, war, violence, poverty, sin, death, and despair to Rejoice.

We suffer in this valley of tears, but so does Christ, and suffering, despite its pain, is no longer meaningless, it is holy and sacred.”

And so we pray for the grace to be able to do what St. Paul urges, we pray for the grace to “Rejoice in the Lord always, I say it again, rejoice”

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