3rd Sunday of Advent Homily Year A

Zep 3:14-18, Phi 4:4-7, Lk 3:10-18…Ode to Joy. Waiting; Getting Ready to Shout with Joy; The Best Kind of Rejoicing: in the Lord; Rejoice: God Is in Our Midst.

Folklore tells a story of followers of a Guru who sough to learn from the Master the stages he had passed through in his quest for the divine. He said, “God first led me by the hand into the Land of Action, where I dwelt for several years. Then he returned and led me to the Land of Sorrows; there I lived until my heart was purged of every inordinate attachment. That’s when I found myself in the Land of Love, whose burning flames consumed whatever was left in me of self. This brought me to the Land of Silence, where the mysteries of life and death were ‘bared before my wondering eyes.”

“Was that the final stage of your quest?” they asked.
“No,” the Master said. “One day God said, ‘Today I shall take you to the innermost sanctuary, to the heart of God Himself.’ And I was led to the Land of Laughter.”
That story is somewhat like Dante’s Purgatory, whose only exit was passing through a wall of fire. Once the pain was burned away by love, the other side was Paradise, sheer joy.

‘Life is full of both sadness and joy. Both can be opportunities for growth, and joy can overcome sadness. An example is Beethoven, whose deafness gradually became so profound that he shared in the difficulties of many deaf people: He was unable to do such simple things as join in group conversations, he felt embarrassed and then isolated; eventually he felt it necessary to withdraw within himself. Conducting the first performance of his Ninth and last symphony, pathetically he had to be told to turn around to face the audience to acknowledge the waves of applause, because he couldn’t hear them. Yet in the midst of his deafness — a sadness unique for a musician — he composed his beautiful, lilting “Ode to Joy”.

Today has for many years been called, after its first words, “Rejoice Sunday”. Today’s liturgy is the Church’s ode to joy and, while shot through with sadness, as was last Sunday’s, it’s full of examples of the triumph of joy. Today’s Gospel is, as was last Sunday’s, part of the story of John the Baptist. At this outset of Jesus‘ ministry, John was proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah. This led to the crowds asking, as we all must ask in facing Jesus, “What should we do?” (v. 10). The Baptist’s answer (v. 11), as with his answers to the succeeding questions, was an initial announcement of a new world. Beyond that, be tailored his answers to his questioners.

John’s answer to the crowds in general had to do/with charity: that they share their food and clothing. In our day, with half the population of the world going to bed hungry every night, and even starving, and the “haves” sharing clothing with the “have nots” in a major way mostly only at Christmas, his answer still applies.

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