Rejoice, Our God is Near: Two Women Roman Catholic Priests Reflect on the 3rd Sunday in Advent 12/11/2016

This third Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of Joy-Gaudete Sunday.    The readings of Advent lead us to prepare for the coming of the ONE we wait for-the ONE who will set the world aright, who will bring joy and life to the tired world, peace in the midst of conflict,forgiveness and mercy in the face of anger and hurt, water to the dry earth and those who thirst,  provisions and shelter and hope to the poor, restoring the lame and blind and those in despair. The lighting of the candles for the four weeks of Advent stir alive the flames of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. We are to burn brightly with the essence of the living Christ in us even as we await the celebration of his birth once again. In the secular world and in the church, lights appear everywhere piercing the darkness, bright reds and greens and yellows and blues paint a joyful world. The deep purple candles represent hope, peace and love. The pink candle of Advent is the candle of joy. Joy is of a different order, it is a feeling, and one that we cannot fake, it must be born deep within us and its flame must last through the darkest nights and burst forth again. Even in the darkest times it burns within us for it is born of our connection with our loving God who through each one of us is making the world right. This year has shaken us with political turmoil and disappointments and fears for the well being of the poor and those who have little, and for peace in the world. Personally we each face challenges, losses of loved ones and profound illnesses that change everything. Everything but the Presence of our loving God who still works to help us rejoice and bloom like desert flowers, that strengthens the hands that are feeble with illness or age, turns around mourning and sorrow and frees us to enter Zion singing with joy and gladness. The One who secures justice for the poor and oppressed who loves the just, protects the strangers and raises up those who were bowed down IS with us and is coming again as we work for the kin-dom. (IS 35:1-6a,10; Psalm 146:6-10).In the Gospel, Matthew 11:2-11 Jesus asks John to look around and hear the news of what he has been doing.  He assures John that doing the work of justice described in Isaiah IS just what he has been doing.   AND, it is just what we need to be doing to get the job done. Light the light of JOY, God is not dead,nor does God rest-with our work for justice and peace the kin-dom/kingdom of God is here, and Christmas IS coming again this year!

“Our God keeps faith forever,secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry…” Psalm 146:6-7

This is part of my 2013 homily for the Sunday of Joy.

Are You The One? Homily for the 3rd Sunday in Advent A-Rejoice! By Pastor Judy Lee

This is the Sunday of Joy in waiting for the coming of Christ-for the fullness of Christ within us so that we reflect Christ; for the Christ born in relative poverty and shepherds rejoicing on Christmas day; and for the Christ who will return when the kin(g)dom is close to fruition. The pink candle of joy is lighted and we are  near the birth of the baby in the manger.

Isaiah tells us ((35:1-6,10) tells us that when our God comes to save us, the blind will see and the deaf will hear, the lame will leap and the mute will sing for joy.  I take this to mean, beyond the miraculous, that finally we will all understand and see and hear what the kin(g)dom of God is about, love and justice-and joy. We will get up off of our comfortable seats and walk and dance this kin(g)dom into existence.   The faithful will enter Zion with joy, sorrow and lament will flee and there will be everlasting joy on their faces. For Isaiah’s exiled people freedom will bring that joy even as Nelson Mandela’s triumph brought a lasting joy to South Africa. Yet that joy is there despite the poverty that exists among the poorest for whom little has changed in South Africa and all over our world. The work of the kin(g)dom is not anywhere near done there or here or anywhere.  The Psalm also assures us of God’s love and provision for the poor- “You secure justice for the oppressed- You give food to the hungry”. And at the same time we whose eyes are open know that our work is intense- there is so much work to be done so that there is justice for the poor and all are fed. And we know this even though we do our part in feeding the poor and working for justice regularly. The epistle reading today (James 5:7-10) asks us to wait patiently for the kin(g)dom to come even as the farmer waits for the crops to grow. And yet we know that we must work to bring forth the crop and the kin-dom- to unite all of us as God’s family. James wrote about that strongly –faith without works is dead! (James 2:26)


Good Shepherd Church-Pearl Cudjoe and Debbie Carey serving the Sunday Meal

But we know this (that our work is needed) only if we have indeed found the One that leads us into this kin(g)dom and asks us to work together to bring it here. John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin, his Mom Elizabeth and Jesus Mother Mary were close friends. John knew who Jesus was from the start-from the womb as it were. John knew that his own job was to prepare the way for Jesus.  John’s preaching did this and he had already baptized Jesus and experienced the Spirit of God affirming Jesus. And yet in today’s Gospel (Matthew 11:2-11) John seems confused. Perhaps we would be as well if we were in prison and it looked like there would be no reprieve and if we could not see the works that Jesus was doing, but only hear about them second hand. (And that is how it is for us, isn’t it? So we can look around and see the pain in the world and ask John’s question too. ) John sends a messenger to ask: “Are you the One who is to come, or do we look for another”?  Maybe John’s Messiah was to literally free the Jews from the Romans, maybe he was to overturn the political establishment by whatever means necessary. Yet John knew the holiness and greatness of Jesus saying “I’m not even worthy of latching up his shoes”. Maybe John was just confused. I can resonate with that-we see Jesus, the Christ, filtered through so many eyes old and new, traditional theology and contemporary theology,  that tell us who Jesus is or isn’t, it can be very confusing. All do it with great authority as if they finally have God in the box. But God just doesn’t fit in any box.  So if we are honest we too may ask Jesus, “Are you still the One?”

Do you remember a time in your life when you were looking for “the one?” I don’t mean for the Messiah, the Anointed/Chosen one, but for the one you would love and cherish and want to spend your life with? The one who would be your lover and beloved forever? I remember that time. It was more than one time. Finding the love of your life is so complicated and so much mutuality is needed and people change so much that you don’t always get it right. I remember wondering if this one, or that one was “the one”.

The African American people also had a long period of time asking and sometimes still ask when a child is born: Is this the one? Meaning the one who will lead the people to freedom who will show the way. I wonder if they knew when Martin Luther King Junior was born that he would at least be one of the ones who would lead the way, or Rosa Parks, or Sojourner Truth? Is this the one? Did Nelson Mandela’s mother know he was the one to lead his people to freedom? Maybe not, they say he changed in prison to become the gentle forgiving leader that galvanized a country-not only by his great courage but by his love.

Well, the answer Jesus gave is a really good one. He answered with what he DID not with what he was supposed to be. He referred to the passage in Isaiah about the reign of God and pointed out that he has been making the blind to see, the lame to walk, the unclean clean/lepers cured, the deaf to hear and even the dead to be raised to life. And the “have-nots” have the Good News preached to them-by him. So blessed are they who can see this and not take offense. Offense at what- at the man who is fulfilling prophecy and bringing on the kin(g)dom? Yes, this would offend the powerful and also the traditionally religious who can’t believe that this is happening in their midst. “Can’t” because they may be expecting someone else a military leader for example.  “Can’t” because he comes from a small not powerful town, though one that was prophesied for the Savior’s birth. “Can’t” because they just don’t get who he is or what he’s doing. “Can’t” because his being and preaching, his inclusion of women and outcasts threatens the status quo, including their religious establishment power.

For those who seek the one to love and settle down with-the answer is also in his or her deeds. Is this the one for me? It is if their actions not just their words show their love for you. And if you in turn reciprocate this love with loving deeds. With love it is a two way street. Well, it’s the same with loving Jesus, the Christ. If we love Christ our deeds will show it. We will become Christ-like-we will become like our Beloved. We will work hard to feed, shelter, cry for justice with and for, and love EVERYBODY.  And Christ might just ask us too “Are you the one?”  It is all about love after all. And that love brings us great joy-it also brings on the kin(g)dom of God on earth and forever. So do you know this Christ, is this the One for you? If it is, REJOICE!

Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP

And here is the awe-inspiring homily of Rev. Beverly Bingle, RCWP of Toledo, Ohio: 


Today‘s reading from Isaiah
tells us to have courage
because we will be vindicated.
Justice will prevail.
God will uphold us,
sustain us,
make all things right and just for us.
And when that happens, Isaiah says,
the poorest will be healed.
The eyes of the blind will be opened,
the ears of the deaf unsealed,
those who can’t walk will leap like deer,
and the tongues of those who cannot speak
will sing for joy.
In the Gospel we heard Matthew tell how John the Baptist,
when he sends his followers to ask Jesus if he is sent by God,
gets the answer
in terms of a fulfillment of that passage in Isaiah:
go back and report what you hear and see:
‘Those who are blind recover their sight;
those who cannot walk are able to walk,
those with leprosy are cured;
those who are deaf hear;
the dead are raised to life;
and the anawim—the “have-nots”—
have the Good News preached to them.’
The practice of looking to the tradition
for keys to the present situation
is as long as recorded history.
It’s the habit of calling on the wisdom of the past
for guidance in our time.
James’ letter gives the same kind of advice:
Be patient, don’t grumble about one another, persevere—
take the prophets as your models.
What about us, now, in our time?
We say we are followers and imitators of the way of Jesus.
That means, according to the Word we just heard,
that we are to be teachers and healers,
reaching out in love to the poor and marginalized.
We are to work miracles, just like Jesus did.
It sounds like a tall order,
but we see those miracles all around us.
Pax Christi, the national Catholic peace movement,
has a local branch that meets over at Corpus Christi Parish.
Just one of the projects that makes Pax Christi a healer
is the “Manna bag,”
a gallon-size plastic bag full of non-perishable food and drink
that they put together and sell
so they can give them away
to those folks standing on street corners asking for help.
Then there are miracle workers like our own Liz Facey, who,
like so many other teachers,
works tirelessly to open the eyes and ears
of her special needs students.
We’ve been seeing stories on the news lately
about doctors who are pioneering stem cell therapy
that rebuilds body parts,
giving new life to people struck with disability and disease.
We all know families and friends of stroke victims
who tend them through the difficult times of loss and rehab,
loving them through every possible step of improvement.
We all face hard times, accident, illness, or surgery,
the difficulties of aging,
and it’s there that we see the loving care
that Jesus told John’s followers to tell him about.
Miracles are happening here at Holy Spirit, too.
We’re focused on the environment
and the impact of climate change
on the poorest and most vulnerable people,
and we’re doing something about it
with our Tree Toledo efforts.
And you are generous in direct help to the anawim of our time,
donating to organizations
that serve the poor and the marginalized
with housing, food, health needs, clothes, education…
it’s a very long list!
You write letters to officeholders
supporting programs that help the poor…
or criticizing programs that harm the poor.
And you pray,
preparing your heart and your soul
to be ready to love when it’s the hardest.
Christmas is just two weeks away.
It’s heart-warming for me to hear the plans you’re making
to gather with family and friends,
to share a feast and enjoy each other’s company.
And among the things I hear is
that you’re going to welcome Maude and Claude—
Aunt Maude with her acid tongue,
Uncle Claude with his overindulgence.
And you’re going to embrace Pam and Sam—
cousin Pam, who is sure to let you know
that she’s better than everybody else,
and nephew Sam with his crude language,
sneaking off to smoke marijuana behind the barn.
Even though you don’t approve of what they do,
you love them.
You’re planning to open the door and welcome them at the table.
And that’s a miracle.
As Richard Rohr said:
“The Second Coming of Christ is us.”
When we help the poor and the oppressed,
the downtrodden and the marginalized,
no matter if they’re families
racing away from their bombed-out homes in Aleppo
or family at the Christmas feast,
it’s our love that brings Christ to life again.
We are miracle workers.
People don’t recognize us as Christians
because we go out and buy lots of presents every December.
They know us by our presence, our p-r-e-s-e-n-c-e.
People see that we are followers of Jesus
because of how we treat people every day, all year long—
family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, strangers, enemies.
We meet them and reach out to them and walk with them
along the way.
We spend time with them, get to know them,
see the face of Christ in them.
That’s how they know we are Christians…
they see our love bringing light to the world.
It’s the true miracle of Christmas.
We have two weeks left to get ready
for our celebration of the fact
that we are the ones
who make that miracle happen all year long.

Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue
Toledo, OH 43606
(Washington Church)

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006

 May the JOY of Advent and of following Christ be yours today.

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