Homily: 3rd Sunday of Advent 2016

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Information about Homily: 3rd Sunday of Advent 2016

Published on December 12, 2016

Author: Knipper

Source: slideshare.net

1. 11 December 2016 3rd Sunday of Advent - Cycle A Princeton, NJ This morning we celebrate the 3rd Sunday of Advent - also called Gaudete Sunday. The name is taken from the first word of the Entrance Antiphon – Rejoice! Or in Latin – Gaudete! The antiphon reads: “Rejoice always in the Lord; again I say, rejoice. Indeed the Lord is near.” But just how near to us is he? For if we listen to the Gospel there seems to be a disconnect. For on this Sunday that we are reminded to “rejoice in the Lord’, we hear of John sitting in his jail cell and wondering if he placed his faith, his time and his energy on the wrong person – wondering indeed, if the Lord is near. He was asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Sounds like John may have had different expectations of what the Messiah would be doing. After all he was the one ‘preparing the way for the Lord’, and now he finds himself sitting in dark, damp, dreary jail cell. Perhaps he was under the impression that the Christ would appear and with the wave of his hand would conveniently do away with all suffering, discrimination, hate and fear. Then again haven’t we all had times in our lives that we feel that way, filled with doubt, anger and uncertainty and ask “Where is God?” “Is the Lord anywhere near? In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ response to this question was basically, “Go back and tell John of all that you see and hear and that I have come to proclaim good news to the poor, the outcast, the sinners, those discriminated against – to all people who are living on the edge. It would seem that Jesus was doing things way differently than most had expected for his focus was always serving those on the edges of society – meeting them where they are and pulling them into the center. Author Ernest Boyer Jr in his book, A Way in the World, writes about the spirituality of the ‘center’ and the ‘edge’. He defines the center as where you feel most at home. It is a place of safety and comfort where you are surrounded by familiar, daily rituals. Your edge is that place which is unfamiliar, and filled with newness. While it is the space where you are most uncomfortable, it is also where you learn the most about life and love and can deeply experience God. Sometimes we are thrown into our edges, other times it requires us to have a great deal of courage to move from our comfortable centers into the unknown – into places where we are not in control. The Bible gives us many examples such spirituality: such as the Israelites leaving Egypt in Exodus and Joseph the dreamer, sold into slavery by his brothers. For Jesus – it is the story of how he began his ministry, when after his baptism and hearing of his Father’s love, Jesus is taken into the desert to face the temptations of power and of self. Painful but grace-filled movement from center to edge and back again. But it would seem that John the Baptist and many of the disciples had the expectation that this Jesus the Christ, this Messiah would be the one who would help them build up their ‘centers’ – and bolster their egos. Instead, Jesus practiced a spirituality which focused on those on the edges, independent of who they were or what they did or what sins they committed. He invited all people to move with him to his center – to experience God’s love – and to be the shining light of Christ. This past week Teresa and I were in Louisville and as we walked around town one morning we found ourselves at the corner of 4th and Walnut. Less than 60 years ago it was that the heart of the city’s battle over racial segregation and discrimination. It is also the street corner where on March 18, 1958, while running errands for the monastery, Thomas Merton had an epiphany. Listen to what Merton wrote: 1 Deacon Jim Knipper

2. “In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness… I have the immense joy of being a member of a race in which God became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” In a time and place where African Americans were discriminated against and treated as second class citizens, he experienced that we are the same, we are all united and no one should ever be separated from the rest of the human race. That the light of Christ shines equally from all people: black, white, Christian, Muslim, citizen, undocumented, married, divorced, straight or gay. This is why we come together as community. Jesus did not come to fulfill our private needs – he did not come to bolster our centers, our egos - rather he came to be with us in our edges. This is why we gather to celebrate and live out the Scripture that we hear each week, because each of us have different centers and edges. Your edge may be my center - your center, her edge - and her edge and my edge, his center. And when we interact with each other, help each other, prayer with and for each other, without judgement or division, we move ourselves and pull others into a common center – which is called the Kingdom. This is why during Advent we are called to celebrate that the Kingdom of God - is here and now and at the same time still to come. That the Lord is truly near through God’s presence in each and every one of us. That today’s call to Rejoice! is to celebrate that we are never abandoned by God – for the Lord is always near. In today’s Gospel, Jesus told John’s disciples to go back and tell him that the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, and the poor will have the good news proclaimed to them. That our life is not all about building up our center – but rather moving from our center to the edges and connecting with others and proclaiming the good news to them. Jesus reiterates this later on in Matthew when talks about the Kingdom of God that is yet to come and the criteria for judgment will be based on the times that we feed the hungry, clothe the naked and welcome the stranger. That is what we are called to do as we announce the Good News: that through all of us, God cares for the hungry, the poor, the lonely, the sick, the broken, the empty, God cares for you and for me, especially when we find ourselves living on the edge. For the Reign of God is here, is now, is with us. That is why we shout Rejoice today – for in two weeks we will celebrate God among us, God incarnate, God fully human and fully alive – today as much as God was 2,000 years ago. So…Rejoice! Gaudete! Stay Awake! Stay Connected! Look up and reach out and participate in the great and mighty deeds of the Lord – who is always and forever very near! 2 Deacon Jim Knipper

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