December 13, 2020 Third Sunday of Advent

What will bring you joy and happiness? There are various types of joy and happiness; some are superficial and come and go but there is also deeper and lasting joy and happiness that abides and remains. The economic crisis or a pandemic of this time, with all the pain it brings to some, reminds us where we are to find our joy, only in God.

Advent reminds us that the joyful answer to our problems lies in God. True joy and happiness is to be found only in God.

What a difference there is between “Happy Holidays” and “Merry Christmas.” Anyone, even a pagan, can celebrate Happy Holidays, but how beautiful it is to have Christ at the center of a Merry Christmas. Christ is the one and only gift at the center of a Merry Christmas who is lacking from Happy Holidays.

If we are not finding our joy and happiness in God we are under an illusion and sooner or later God will give us the painful grace of allowing that illusion to give way to reality. What is the reason to celebrate the birthday party without a birthday celebrating person? Doesn’t make sense!

God is the answer. Only in God can we find true joy and happiness. Those who abandon God are on the road to sorrow and pain.

The readings today remind us that God is our joy.

Our Church reminds us Advent is the time of the coming of God into our humanity, into your personal lives, and into mine too. It is that mysterious time of the year when we recognize the tension between what already “is” and what is yet “to be”; between what we “are” and what we “can be”; between what has been accomplished and what remains unfinished in our personal enterprise of life. The birth of Jesus Christ empowers us to move beyond what has been, and to move into God’s kingdom here on earth.

We are, after all is said and done, called by God not only to enter heaven after we die, but to usher in His kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. To say it quite simply, we are to be concerned about what is happening now, not just what we hope will happen in the future.

For us, as Catholics, we see that a little Child lifts us up to heaven… and heaven, in the birth of that Christ, stoops to earth. The message of Christmas is that the visible material world is now, by the birth of God’s Son among us, bound to the invisible spiritual world.

What humans regard as merely material is now invested with the presence of God. It is God’s world, not just ours.

“Happiness is something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for.” If you and I can live lives dedicated to making the lives of others a little bit better than they once were, if we can find ourselves in the reality of what is transcendent in life, giving love to the loveless, and being loved in return, and if we can live each day fully in the Presence of Christ, or rather with His Presence reaching and touching others through us, that is no small thing to have happened to any man or woman.

Here are some personal qualities that should identify who we are and what we are as Catholics who celebrate the Birth of Christ and who receive Him in Holy Communion:

1 – We are known for attending Mass and receiving Jesus Christ into our souls every Sunday, and perhaps even known to celebrate daily Masses from time to time.

2 – We are known to be moral persons, respected for having high standards of ethics, morality, and character. There should be plenty of evidence by which others could identify us as persons of principle and goodness in the way we conduct our affairs, our businesses, and in the way we treat others. People should be able to take us at our word, without really needing a contract to enforce our agreements and commitments.

3 – We are known to be prayerful persons. I don’t mean that we ostentatiously pray in public so that we will be seen, but rather that being prayerful persons we have a certain aura about us – an atmosphere of serenity and peace surrounding us – a spirit of peace and calmness that people recognize as coming only from being a deeply prayerful person.

4 – We have an attitude, a habit of being, that is kind, gentle, respectful, sensitive to others, compassionate and caring toward others. We have an attitude that can been seen in the eyes of Mother Theresa of Calcutta, a face that reveals the presence of the heart of Christ, a smile and a tone of voice that can only come from being close to Christ.

5 – We are known as persons who are sensitive to the presence of God in all things, in events, and in the seeming coincidences that occur in our lives and in our worlds, coincidences that point to the activities of God in our lives and in our world.

Today’s readings from Sacred Scripture have several significant themes within them. One of them has to do with identity, John the Baptist’s identity, Christ’s identity, as well as your identity and mine.

Evidently Jesus or John the Baptist didn’t have much of an identity problem. Nor should we. After all, John died for who he was and what message he proclaimed and Jesus suffered and died for you and me in order that we might see and understand ourselves in an entirely new way, in a radically different way than the world sees us. Because of Jesus Christ we now know that we are loved and being saved sinners.

To whom, then, is your life dedicated? To what is your life dedicated? What part do you play in the great scheme of things? Would the people who know you succeed or would they fail in identifying who you are, what you stand for, and what your life is all about?

Perhaps in all of your gift-giving this forthcoming Christmas you could give the Christ child a gift He would treasure forever, namely a healthy self-awareness and a healthy self-identity, one in which the presence of Jesus can be found.