Sunday, December 17, 2017

Advent Charity / Identity (2017-12-17, Advent)

Sunday 17 December 2017  /  3rd Sunday of Advent

● Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11  ● Psalm / Luke 1 ●  1 Thessalonians ●● + John 1:6-8, 19-28  ●●  

Title: “Advent Charity / Identity” 

[__01__]      On this third Sunday of Advent, we read about John the Baptist who attracts attention to the message of the Gospel.
          I offer 3 reasons to summarize why John the Baptist attracts attention:
          1st,  he is LOUD.  John the Baptist has turned up the volume, he is the voice crying out in the desert.
          2nd  John the Baptist has a LEGACY. John’s father is Zechariah who is from the Jerusalem Temple. John has connections to big city and religious authorities at the Temple.
          3rd ,  John is LAUDED – or applauded.  Crowd of people are coming to him. He is famous. And, even the king  - King Herod – appreciates / lauds him.  Up to the time, John was imprisoned and put to death by King Herod, King Herod was fascinated with and applauding him.
          John the Baptist was LOUD; he has a LEGACY; and he is LAUDED by others.
          This differs from Jesus who comes more quietly, more gradually into his ministry and often into our lives.
          John the Baptist is the voice crying out in the desert. He makes himself heard.
          We do not always recognize God in our midst. We are called to awareness.
[__02__]      In 2014, a movie [film] was being made in New York City, in midtown, near Grand Central Station.
          There was a film crew, cameras. One of the actors was the famous American, Richard Gere who was in Pretty Woman, An Officer and a Gentleman, and other films. Richard Gere is not so much a brand-name / household-name today, but he was making a movie in 2014 in New York.
          What was caught on camera, one day, was that a family from out of town had just entered this particular movie set. They knew not that they were part of the action. They must have found a side street or a back entrance.
          They were caught on camera with Mr. Gere who was doing a scene.

[__03__]      Could we compare this family – the mother, father and children – to the interviewers/messengers who had been sent to encounter and experience and figure out John the Baptist.
          Why is he so LOUD? What is his LEGACY? Why is he being LAUDED by others?
          So, they go out to find John the Baptist in the desert.

[__04__]      But, John re-directs them, and re-directs us.
          Yes, we are called to be repentant, to have contrition and sorry for our sins.
          This is so that we can reconnect with God and with our neighbor, that we can re-connect with Christ who is also in the person near or far from us.
          Even if we do not hear the LOUDNESS, know the LEGACY, or recognize what the APPLAUSE is for.
          In Advent, we are called to recognize Christ in our midst.

[__05__]      So, there is this family who goes to New York, midtown Manhattan, to Grand Central Station.
          But, the know not that they are on a movie set and there are so many cameras and lights surrounding them.
          They see a man dressed in ordinary clothing, quite dirty, grimy clothing, rummaging through the garbage, the trash, searching for something to eat.
          Feeling compassion, they consider the food they have just purchased. And, they approach and offer him some food.
          He responds, “Thank you. God bless you.”

[__06__]     We, as a community and as individuals, offer charitable gifts.  The Giving Tree.
          Our annual Giving Tree service project is an example of who we reach out to others in our community. Another “giving tree” type of project was your response to our special collection for Father Brancker who is here today.
          Father Brancker’s parish is located in Dominica in the path of Hurricane Maria.  Father Brancker studied theology at the seminary at Seton Hall University, South Orange and during his seminary studies, served here at Lourdes.
          We took up a collection to which you gave over $2,500 to assist him in rebuilding and purchase of materials.
          Thank you for your generous – LOUD – responses to both giving trees. It is your LEGACY and your APPLAUSE.
[*** pause ***]

[__07__]      So – there is this family in midtown Manhattan, near Grand Central Station. They  don’t know they are on a movie set. They approach someone whom they believe is homeless and hungry. They offer him some of their pizza. But, the “random homeless man”is Richard Gere, the actor, and he is doing a scene.

[__08__]      What is ironic is that Mr. Gere’s identity, fame, flash, wealth are completely ignored, unrecognizable.    
          It was the Good News. Someone saw the poverty, the need and reached out, based on their own God-given willingness to love.  They did not know where they were. They did not know who he was.  (We may have forgotten who Richard Gere is also, because he has not made a major film in a while).
          They saw beyond the face to the heart.
          We are tested.
          We pray.
          We hope to know what and who is real. That God is real in our lives. A reminder that God is love, that God is in our midst.
          He calls us to share our gifts.

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