Anticipation & Hope
Anticipation & Hope
Deacon Rick Stachura Homily- December 15th, 2019
Isaiah 35:1-6a James 5:7-10 Matthew 11:2-11
Anticipation! This is the season of anticipation. And what do I mean by that? Just look at the children here. If you ask them what is coming, they will all tell you Christmas. And what does Christmas mean for them? Santa and reindeer and Rudolph and snow and gifts and travel to grandma and grandpa’s. The stores are filled to the brim with toys and clothes and tools and trinkets. Anticipation, this is the season of anticipation.
Anticipation is what Isaiah writes about in our first reading. “The desert and parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers . . . they will see the glory of the Lord . . . Strengthen the hands of the feeble, make firm the knees that are weak . . .” Anticipation!
St. James in his letter is also telling his followers to anticipate. He tells them that the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, anticipating the rain that will make his seeds grow. Anticipation!
And then there is John the Baptist in today’s Gospel, sending his disciples to ask Jesus if he is the “one who is to come.” John is anticipating the coming of the Messiah, the one who is to save the Jews from the Roman occupation and restore the great nation of Israel. Jesus in turn sends them back to John to tell John of the wonderful deeds, the many miracles that he has performed as proof that he probably is the one sent by God. John anticipated a strong and mighty fighter, but he soon realized Jesus was a humble, loving servant. Anticipation!
So what should we be anticipating at this time of year? What should we all be preparing ourselves for during this Advent season? The coming of the baby Jesus, the coming of Christ, the Messiah, Jesus, our King and Savior of the world. But what does this anticipation ultimately translate into? It translates into Hope!
This is the season of Hope. Many families hope for good health, or to have a meal on their tables, or maybe a job that will support their families. They hope for children who will succeed in school, grow up to be good and prosperous adults and bring the grandchildren home during the Christmas holidays. Rich or poor, families have Hope at this time of year.
This is the time of year when those who have been away from the Church tend to return. Or many Catholics who don’t frequent weekend Mass will be in the pews with family and friends. There are many reasons why these folks, these families, only show up at Christmas and Easter. But my Hope is that everyone here will be welcoming. I hope that the tradition of St. Mary’s being a welcoming parish will touch your heart to invite someone who might be newer to the parish to join you when you attend one of the groups you belong to or to a faith enrichment class you are taking or you might even consider inviting them to the Welcome, CRHP retreats coming up during Lent.
As I said, anticipation leads us to hope, to for things. Our parish has had a rough time over the last 18 months. We are all anticipating things getting better, getting back to what was normal. But things change, and through the virtue of Hope, we pray as a community to bring our parish back together, make it stronger in faith and relationships and trusting that God will guide us in a direction that will bring all of us closer to him. Let us put our parish community, the Community of St. Mary’s, in the hands of the Blessed Virgin, Jesus’ mother and our patroness, to lead us out of this spiritual funk and into the loving arm of her son.
Did you notice that we lit the rose colored candle in the Advent wreath today? And did you notice that we are wearing rose colored vestments, like my rose colored stole? Today we celebrate Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is taken from the Latin, meaning to rejoice. These are worn to set the tone for a joyful anticipation of the birth of Jesus. Rejoice, the coming of the Lord is near.
So what do we need to continue to do during this Advent season? What do we need to continue to Hope for. Look around you at the empty seats. I’m sure everyone can think of someone who should be sitting in those pews and are not because their faith has been shaken. We should be hoping and praying for those who are struggling right now with their faith and are staying away from Mass and the sacraments. We should be supportive and encourage their return. Jesus came to heal those who were spiritually sick. Remember that the Church is a hospital for sinners, those who are spiritually sick and struggling, it is not a club for saints.
With 10 short days until Christmas, let us all continue to Hope and pray for the Church to heal its brokenness. Let us Hope and pray for the continued renewal of our parish and our parish family. I ask that you pray for Fr. Bob and Fr. Jack, for me and by brother Deacons so that we will continue to receive God’s graces to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and be his servant to you, the Church. Let us be the welcoming parish we always have been when visitors join us during the Christmas season. And let us renew ourselves and commit ourselves to Hope in the saving graces that will be brought to us by this little child we anticipate being born on Christmas morning.
May the anticipation of our savior’s birth bring us Hope and joy and peace as we continue our Advent journeys.