On the liturgical calendar, this Third Sunday of Advent is also known as Gaudete Sunday; “Rejoice!” is the cry we hear from St. Paul to the Phillipians. From the Book of the Prophet Zephaniah, we heard “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!” I suspect that there are people in six Midwest and Southeast states, for whom this call to “Rejoice!” rings hollow! There are people in our midst, people with their own individual tragedies, sorrows, for whom the invitation to joy, is maybe the last thing they want to hear.
This is not the homily I wanted to deliver this morning, I wanted to speak of joy, of rejoicing in our God; but the tragedy of yesterday weighs heavy on my mind and soul; especially as the numbers of injured and those who have died grows; as I saw the scenes of destruction play out on my TV screen, I knew I had to crumple the pages I had prepared, and start from scratch. This is one of those moments, whether you were personally touched by this tragedy, or not; when you want to shake your fists to the heavens, and shout out WHY?! But there is no easy answer! Scientists can perhaps explain the atmospheric conditions that created these monster storms, but that will not ease the pain, the loss. We still cry out WHY!
Maybe this why the Son of God, Jesus Christ, came down to be among us, to share in the sufferings, the pain, the hopelessness we may experience through life. And he did; he took on that pain, that hopelessness to such a degree; that even he cried out “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me!” It is then that he give us a reason for hope; through his Resurrection! There is hope, after all this destruction and death, God has not abandoned us!
As we watch on our televisions, desktops, iPads and cellphones, the scenes of suffering; this question may arise in our minds; “What should we do?” God’s response comes through the lips of John the Baptist: “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” Whatever we can give to help the recovery, give it! Let the love of Christ, blaze in our hearts, encouraging us to come the aid of our brothers and sisters!
I close with the words of St. Paul: “The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
And above all else, we need to continue to pray for the victims; those who are recovering; those who have died and those who mourn their loss. Let us together, give them a reason to experience some hope, some sense that they are not alone in this time of darkness and pain.