You know, sometimes God blesses
us with an epiphany—
that puts everything in perspective.
One of those “aha” moments”!!!
A “now, I get it!” moment.
Well, I had one of those experiences yesterday,
when I met a young lady names Shawna.
I’ll never forget Shawna because
she helped teach me the true meaning of Advent—
the true meaning of this Sunday.
I’ll get to Shawna in just a moment.
But first, I want to talk about Gaudete Sunday—
the 3rd Sunday of Advent—
the Sunday of rejoicing.
What do you have to be joyful
about this Advent-Christmas season?
Well, I’ve got a lot.
God provided me with a good family—
A mom and dad—
who have supported me at every stage in my life.
You want to be a doctor—
We’ll support you.
Several years later—
You want to do what?—
You want to become a Catholic—
Ok, we’ll support that too.
A couple of years later—
You want to be a priest—
Well, we don’t understand—
but it’s for God—
So, we’ll support that too.
And now I get to work for Jesus.
I’ve got great friends.
I’ve got a roof over my head.
And I’ve got health insurance.
And as far as I know, I’m cancer free.
And I’ll have a wonderful Christmas—
surrounded by people who
care about me and I care about them.
I’ll get to spend some alone time at Christmas too—
I’ve got a lot of books to read.
God has been so good to me.
What about you?
I bet you’ve got a lot to be joyful about too.
I know, because I’ve had the blessing
of many of you sharing your life me.
We have a young couple who is
expecting their first baby.
Some of our med students are about to graduate—
and they’ve chosen their specialty—
and they’re getting ready for a whole new phase of their lives.
And so many of you—
will also be surrounded by friends and family and love—
with plenty of presents around a Christmas tree.
And there’s all the Christmas parties—
and maybe even a trip to some cool place.
This weekend, I presided over a wedding mass
for two of our students in Dayton, Ohio.
Talk about joy!!!
Welcome brothers and sisters in Christ—
Welcome to this Sunday of rejoicing.
It was at the wedding this weekend
where I met Shawna.
She wasn’t at the wedding—
She was working at the hotel
where they had me stay.
That’s where the epiphany took place.
It was a nice brand-new hotel in
a part of downtown Dayton where
there was a lot of gentrification taking place.
A lot of coffee shops and hip bars all around.
I got up early on Saturday morning
and went down to the lobby for
the “free” breakfast bar.
And as I was walking down the hall—
I saw the person who was cleaning
the rooms on my floor.
She looked like she was in her mid-thirties.
And when I saw her—
I had this thought.
I don’t know if it was just an intellectual intuition—
or a revelation from God—
but the thought just hit me:
“I bet she’s never ever stayed in a hotel.”
I went on down for my free breakfast—
but the face of that hotel employee and
the thought that she may have never
stayed in a hotel her whole life—
wouldn’t leave alone—
it kept knocking on my heart.
I had a crappy breakfast.
I rushed up to my floor hoping to talk to her.
The elevator door opened and
I saw her cart in front of a room.
I rushed into the room—
probably scared her to death—
and introduced myself.
“I’m Steve, and I’m staying in
room 625 and I’ll be checking out soon and
I wanted to leave you a tip.”
“My name is Shawna,” she said.
I just had to know if my intuition was correct.
So as I was pulling out my wallet,
I asked her,
“Shawna, have ever got to stay in a hotel?”
“No. No,” she said,
“I’ve never got to stay in a hotel.”
Here she was cleaning rooms in a hotel—
working her tail off—
making minimum wage—
trying to get ready for her Christmas—
and she had never stayed in hotel before.
The irony of it all made me want to cry.
My tip suddenly got bigger.
Is Shawna giving you the
same Advent epiphany that she gave me?
While most of us have so much to be joyful about—
the main joy—
the main joy that this Sunday points to is not
the joy that the external things of life bring.
It can’t be.
Because this can be a tough season for some—
a not so joyful season if it’s only about the externals.
I know someone in our parish
who is facing a terminal disease—
who has lost their job—
whose wife has left—
who is so depressed they have contemplated suicide—
who won’t have many presents under the tree.
Does this Sunday exclude them—
Does the joy of the season exclude them?
Of course not.
That’s not the type of joy that St. Paul talks about today.
That’s not the type of Advent joy that we celebrate today.
We’re talking about a joy that goes much—much deeper.
One preacher suggested that
Advent preaching is the easiest. (Fleming Rutledge)
It’s the easiest because Advent is the
season where we should be reminded of
the human condition.
Advent happens in the darkest time of the year—
and it’s so easy to show the darkness in the world.
And in the midst of this darkness—
comes a light—
The light and hope come as the newborn Christ-child—
a child we’ll be drawn to if
iwe just take the time to look at Him.
He comes to rescue us from the human condition—
He comes to save us.
Because no matter what our externals are—
They can be taken away in an instant.
Advent is such an important season—
but it can easily become a misunderstood season—
a dangerous season spiritually because
there are so many externals to draw us
away from where the main action is occurring.
All the lights and glitter—
All the parties—
All the gifts.
As wonderful as they are—
they can fool us like a magician’s misdirection.
Look over here—
while the real action is over there.
The biggest blessing—
the real reason to rejoice—
is that God loves us so much that
He comes into our lives as a baby—
to draw us to him—
so He can save us.
No matter what the external are—
We all need saved.
And that realization and
the joy that comes with it is there—
it’s there whether we’ve got
5 months or 50 years to live—
whether there’s presents under the tree—
whether we’ve ever stayed in a hotel—
God bless Shawna for showing this to me.
I hope she knows how much God loves her.
If I had to do it all over again—
not only would I have given her a tip—
I would have reminded her of how much God loves her.
“Rejoice in the Lord always—
I shall say it again: rejoice!”
Holy Spirit 12/14-15/2018