Sunday, December 11, 2016

Be Patient

By Rev. Paul Berghout

The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Isaiah 35:1-4B

Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You too must be patient. Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand. James 5:7-8

As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces. Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Matthew 2:7-9

Have you ever been in despair? The answer is simple. Quit looking at your circumstances and look at God. (J. Bailey Smith)

Christmas is near and the liturgy tells us to rejoice. This Sunday is Gaudete Sunday.  In every Mass we hear "Lift up your hearts,"-- there is always cause for rejoicing when one considers eternal salvation. Rose is the official color of this Sunday. Rose is not pink. Jesus rose. He didn’t "pink."

The theme is spiritual joy through hope.

We get hope infused in us at baptism and this hope can be further developed. Humanly speaking, hope is the learned thought process acquired through socialization. We have to hear the reason for hope.  Pope Benedict XVI said, “[The] distinguishing mark of Christians the fact that they have a future…that their life will not end in emptiness. Only when the future is certain as a positive reality does it become possible to live the present as well…the future has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.”

As the saying goes, “The future’s so bright I’ve gotta wear shades!”

This is the season of the year when we are reminded that this is God's world. He is at work in this world, and even though we may be surrounded by darkness, we know there is a light shining in the darkness that the darkness cannot overcome (John 1:5).

In London during the Second World War, Hitler's warplanes were bombing the great city with regularity. In order to safeguard the children, trainloads of them were evacuated to the country. Somebody asked one young lad, "Where are you going?" He thought for a minute and replied, "I don't know, but the king knows."  Hope is "We don't know what the future holds, but our King knows."

St. James tells us today in our Second Reading to be patient. The day of the Lord is already dawning. A firm hope keeps us from despondency and despair, and it’s also a source of joy helping us to trust in the life to come as ever-lasting joy. God will even things out and those who have been faithful to his word will enjoy happiness beyond our ability to imagine.

A man asked a Philosopher, “I want happiness.” The Philosopher said, “First remove “I,” that’s ego, then remove “want,” that’s desire. See now you are only left with “happiness.”

Psychologists have known for decades that even winning the lottery won't make a person happier over the long haul. People simply adapt. Each of us has a set point for happiness—a level of contentment that stays constant through changing circumstances.

The key to happiness appears to lie in our internal qualities and character strengths, not in external events.

Researchers found that happiness was most strongly associated with a core character trait list: gratitude, hope, zest, and the ability to love and be loved. Relationships with other people are what make us the happiest.

Regarding marriage, few human joys are as deep and thrilling as those experienced by two people who love one another and have achieved something as the result of a great, shared effort. (Amoris Laetitia, 130)

Singing brings hope.

“Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.” (James 5:13)

“Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

Neuroscience gives us proof that group singing makes us happier, healthier, smarter and more creative. Singing, both by professional musicians and by the whole gathered assembly, has always been a constituent part of both Jewish and Christian liturgies.  The Responsorial Psalms have been sung throughout history going back to King David.

Enjoy your favorite Christmas songs and remember to bring those carols (and the hope they share) to others like your neighbors, those in nursing homes or people in hospitals over the holidays.  

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