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Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent, year C

11 Dec 2021, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

The third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called “Gaudete Sunday.” “Gaudete” means “Rejoice!” So, on every third Sunday of Advent, the Church calls on her children to rejoice. St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” St. Paul emphasizes the need to rejoice in the Lord always, not only in certain situations and conditions but always. In good and in bad times, rejoice in the Lord.

It may sound crazy to tell someone to rejoice always, even when things are not going the person’s way. As crazy as this may sound, St. Paul is not asking us to do something he did not practice. St. Paul wrote to the Philippians and the whole Church today from the prison. He was in chains, in an environment where there was no freedom, in a situation where there was nothing to rejoice about. Yet, St. Paul says rejoice.

The call to rejoice even in the moment of pains is not a ‘canonization’ of pains, but a call never to let your inner peace be taken away. Like St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors.” (Romans 8:35-37).

The story of St. Rita would be helpful here. Rita, as a baby, was put in a baby basket while her parents did their work. Legend has it that as the baby Rita lay in her basked, swarms of bees came around her; she wasn’t stung by any of the bees but rather left some honey on her mouth. Bees sting; they came around Rita but left something sweet. In the life of the adult Rita, we see the meaning of the bees and the honey. Rita suffered many things as an adult, the “bees,” but Rita did not let what she suffered rob her of the gift of peace and the love of God, the “honey.”

Not far from now, we would begin the liturgical season of Christmas, yet still in pandemic (the bees), but we must not miss the joy of Christ’s birth (the honey). The Christmas season is always exceptional; I don’t know about you; the atmosphere always feels different for me. There’s a kind of joy, a kind of comforting presence I cannot explain. These feelings are even more exciting when you begin the Christmas shopping, seeing Christmas trees lightened up, poinsettia and beautiful flowers all around the sanctuary and homes, and Christmas carols playing on all the radios.

Preparing for Christmas is fun, but preparing to receive Christ is more than Christmas shopping and Christmas carols. John the Baptist tells us how to prepare to receive Christ. It was by the river Jordan where he was baptizing and proclaiming the coming of the Messiah, one greater than he is. People from all walks of life gathered around John the Baptist, including tax collectors and soldiers. They questioned John, asking, what must we do? John did not instruct them to go shopping in preparation for his coming neither did he invite them to a party. Instead, John said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none, and whoever has food must do likewise.”  To the tax collectors, he says, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you,” and to the soldiers, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation.”  The best preparation for Christmas is to be spiritually ready to let Christ be born again in our lives, so level the mountains and fill the valise in your life, make your paths straight.

I know there is so much fear, worries, anger, and anxiety because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the midst of all these, trust and rejoice in the Lord always.