DEAR FRIEND IN CHRIST, DUE TO MY PREACHING COMMITMENTS IN THE UAE FOR AN ENTIRE MONTH (9TH NOVEMBER TILL THE FIRST WEEK OF DECEMBER – 2009) A FEW HOMILIES MAY NOT BE AVAILABLE ON THE HOMILY PAGE. THANKS FOR UNDERSTANDING. GOD BLESS.
FR. RUDOLF V. D’SOUZA OCD
THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT – 2009
“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.” Rebecca – age 8
When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.” Billy – age 4
“Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.” Karl – age 5
“Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.” Chrissy – age 6
“Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.” Terri – age 4
Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.” Danny – age 7
“Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss” Emily – age 8
“Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen,” Bobby – age 7 (Wow!)
“If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate,” Nikka – age 6
“There are two kinds of love. Our love. God’s love. But God makes both kinds of them.” Jenny – age 8
“Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.” Noelle – age 7
“Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.” Tommy – age 6
“During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore,” Cindy – age 8
“My mommy loves me more than anybody. You don’t see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.” Clare – age 6
“Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.” Elaine -age 5
“Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.” Chris – age 7
“Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.” Mary Ann – age 4
“I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.” Lauren – age 4
“When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.” Karen – age 7
“Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn’t think it’s gross.” Mark – age 6
“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget,” Jessica – age 8
Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his Mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, “Nothing, I just helped him cry.”
Love and Joy are the traditional theme for the third Sunday of Advent. As Advent progresses, love-joy becomes the dominant human expression. Introduced with Mary’s glad, if surprised, response to her selection as the mother of Jesus, soon angels, shepherds, and magi are not only heralding but joyfully celebrating the unfathomable entrance of God into the world as a baby.
Mirroring the joy build-up of Scripture is the escalation of positive human emotion for many-though not all-during this time of year. The Christmas season buds with awareness, love and builds with anticipation. Ideally, the march toward great joy is not only characterized by gift-sharing, social gatherings, and television classics, but solemn moments of spiritual exploration and introspection.
Realities of around us
While Advent represents a sky of widespread hopefulness, such sky is not unclouded. Advent/ Christmas season can be more grueling than glorious for those whose lives are already highly stressed. Caregivers, including clergy, are especially vulnerable. Higher than normal expectations and demands during the holiday season may be enough to topple persons who have already been living on the edge of emotional collapse.
Moreover, domestic violence increases as persons feel unable to fulfill what they perceive to be minimal family obligations and responsibilities. Alcoholism, depression, drug addiction, shaken baby-syndrome, suicide, and homicide are horrific signs of the inability to cope with stressors often exacerbated during the holiday season. Thus, perhaps as at no other time in the liturgical year, is the historic therapeutic function of African American preaching and worship more important than during Advent and Christmas.
Luke 7:18-35 may be characterized as the last earthly sighting of Jesus by John the Baptist. Luke is the only gospel which contains all three viewings. John’s first sighting of Jesus occurs while he is still in the womb of his mother. It is a spiritual visioning of Jesus that causes baby John to leap in the womb of his mother Elizabeth (Luke 4:1).
The second sighting occurs on the banks of the river Jordan. For days, months, and years, John, infant-turned-iconoclast, had been, with intensity, preaching, baptizing and looking; preaching, baptizing, and looking; preaching, baptizing, and looking. Finally one day he shouted, “There he is!” He’d caught sight of the one who would “baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 7: 16).
Lastly, Luke records a third sighting of Jesus by John. However, the noticing of him in Luke 7:20 is strikingly different from the earlier ones. The earlier sightings evidenced certainty and excitement. John seemed to know who Jesus really was before Jesus was even born. Moreover, John’s unbridled enthusiasm while still in Elizabeth’s belly and on Jordan’s bank argues for his being acknowledged as the first one who ever “shouted” about Jesus. Yes, Mary, the mother of Jesus, shouts in Luke 1:46-55 but her shout, no less magnificent than John’s, is inspired by what God has done (something worth shouting about) more than it is about who Jesus is.
However, by Luke chapter seven, certainty and enthusiasm are dimmed by John’s status behind bars. Glad certainty about Jesus turns to simmering suspicion about him:
“Are you the coming one or do we look for another?” (Luke 7:20).
Considering Luke 7, alongside earlier texts that have John “seeing” Jesus, allows the preacher to address the matter of the changing seasons of faith. It is not always that we see Jesus with “glad eyes.” Sometimes, because of circumstances and choices, our vision of Jesus is blurry and not joyous. But, blurry vision is still vision. And our vision of Jesus does not determine Jesus’ vision of himself or how he sees us. Whatever our plight, Jesus is always God’s son and, in his eyes, we are always God’s children. And there is this good news, too good not to be true: even when we are not certain about God, God is certain about us. This is why we can serve with joy and gladness as officers in the Church and as stewards of God everywhere, even in troubled times.
Ways of Loving Care
Hospitable and loving behavior towards others is lauded in this text of practical spirituality. Even more importantly, such behavior is linked to God. The word God is said four times between verses 10 and 11. If believers have any doubt about what is the source of what often are difficult behaviors to practice in pressure situations, the doubt is answered with “God.” Godly behavior would be untenable without God. Precisely because God loves so, we can love so. Precisely because God welcomes so, we can welcome so.
This text may be used to encourage church leaders to be out front in exhibiting compassion and understanding. To do this is to see Christian leadership in a larger light. More than taking charge of a group or an initiative, Christian leadership is about leading in offering love, forgiveness, and grace to others. Who can question the need for such lavish soulful leadership in our churches and our world today?
Challenges of Love
The focus texts can be brought together with a beautiful challenge to pastor and people alike to see each other as God sees them. Jesus’ response to the questioning of John was to really look, to consider what was actually being done to help people: “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (Luke 7: 32) Peter implores the first believers to be first in blessing each other as God blesses each one of them. As we see with the eyes of faith, let us see with the eyes of God. Beholding each other through God’s eyes has a positive, powerful influence on our attitudes and actions toward each other. If joy is to take hold of our hearts this Advent season, it will only be done if we see others as God sees them.
Soft or delicate in texture and consistency; easily broken, cut, compressed, chewed; not strong or robust; unable to endure hardship and fatigue. If we were developing a list of characteristics needed for living in a world where violence and danger were ever present, perhaps “tender” would not make our final list of desirable attributes. On the other hand, tender’s original meaning, “to stretch, hold out,” might cause us to think twice about the matter. Would the violence and danger in our world be lessened by the presence of more people who could stretch past their fears and with perseverance, work and wait for redemptive new ways of seeing, listening, and thinking?