Monday, January 27, 2020

Homily - 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - 2020

Isaiah 8:23-9:3
1st Corinthians 1:10-13, 17
Matthew 4:12-23

I love a good “call” story.  Today we hear one of the greatest callstories of all time.
God doesnt call the qualified. God qualifies the called.
In today’s Gospel we witness Peter and his brother Andrew called to join Jesus as missionary disciples. Jesus wants to use our natural gifts and professional skills to help him spread the Good News. The first disciples showed a readiness and eagerness to respond to the Jesus’ invitation. How many of us do the same?
        Ever heard of Stanley Rother? You may soon know his name as he marches toward sainthood. His is an amazing modern day callstory.
         Stanley Francis Rother was a humble farm boy from Okarche, Oklahoma. He was not a very good student, but he knew his way around the farm.  And he could do just about anything involving manual labor.
            But God had other plans for his life. 
            Jesus broke into Stans life and called him to the priesthood, called him to become a “fisher of men (and women). 
But Stan failed miserably at seminary, flunking out after being defeated by Latin. The language of the Church never stuck.  And he was booted because of it.
            This was the early 1960s and Vatican II was about to  change everything. 
       A supportive Archbishop gave Stan a second chance and off he went to a seminary in Maryland where Latin was not an emphasis.
       During his time there, Stan was best known for organizing students to improve a grotto than for his scholarly work.  But graduate he did, and in 1963, Stan Rother was ordained, and assigned to a parish in his home state of Oklahoma. 
        After a few years, his Archbishop asked Fr. Stan if he would accept assignment at a sister parish adopted by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma.
        Fr. Stan said yes, then packed his Chevy and drove two-thousand miles to the mountainous region of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, landing in the largest community Santiago Atitlan.
            Remember, this is a man who struggled with Latin.  Now he had to learn both Spanish, and the Tzutuhill Mayan language.
            When God hops into our boat we know were headed out for deep waters, but its usually a place where we find an abundance of fish to catch.
When Fr. Rother arrived in 1968, the assignment was peaceful enough.  He would serve with several other priests and a couple of nuns.
In his first few years, he learned Spanish, experimented with crops on the parish farm lands, installed new stained glass windows, refurbished the altar, and became beloved for being the only Gringo priest to visit the modest homes of parishioners, sit on their dirt floors and break bread over a meal of wild greens and tortillas.
            Eventually, he would be handed the parish to run on his own. 
            Remember his struggles with Latin?  Fr. Stan became not only fluent in Spanish and Tzutuhill Mayan, he eventually translated the Gospel into the Mayan language.
            He was beloved.  He found heaven on earth.  He became known NOT as Fr. Stan, but Padre "A'plas," a Tzutuhill translation of his middle name Francis.  This was a sign of love and affection to be honored with a Mayan name.
            But his dream was about to turn into a nightmare.
In 1980, a clash was brewing between the indigenous peoples emboldened by the Gospels message of Liberation and a government with its sights set on wiping out the native population.
            While many priests and catechists were preaching Liberation Theology, Fr. Stan wanted no part of efforts to criticize the government. He was no radical. He refused to preach rebellion.
            He just wanted to tend his flock in peace and harmony.
            But in the fall of 1980, the military moved into the mountainous Lake Atitlan area to stamp out a growing native rights movement. 
            Everybody got labeled a Communist troublemakerif they stood up for, or behind the Mayan natives.
            Then the disappearances began, and word of murder and torture spread.
            One of Fr. Stans brightest catechists was kidnapped before his very eyes one night, screaming to Fr. Stan, Ayuda me,” “Help me.” It was a plea that would haunt Fr. Stan for the rest of his life.   
Fr. Stan would soon be on a military hit list.
       Shortly after Christmas 1980, the heat on Fr. Stan was too hot.  So, he fled Atitlan and Guatemala for the family farm in Okarche, Oklahoma. 
            While in the states a priest friend invited him to speak at his hometown parish. 
            Fr. Stan preached saying, “Don’t believe everything your government tells you.”  He had a unique perspective, seeing this as less a battle pitting communism vs. capitalism, but instead a battle over human rights. 
But his remarks upset a couple of patriotic parishioners sitting in the pews who wrote to the Guatemalan Embassy in Washington D.C. saying, I feel obliged to warn your nations government of the Church involvement within the leftist organizations attempting to establish A socialist (or Marxist) government in Guatemala.
            The letters were a death sentence in the hands of Guatemalan officials.  
Just before Holy Week 1981, he returned to Santiago Atitlan, against the many wishes of family and friends and fully knowing he might likely be killed.
       A few months later, on a hot July evening, a military death squad broke into the rectory, found Fr. Rother, tortured him, and a gunman shot him twice in the head.             
Just last weekend I saw the bullet hole in the floor of the former library now special prayer space. We stayed overnight at the rectory feet away from the spot and concelebrated Mass at Fr. Stan’s parish.
            “In death, as in life, Stan was of Oklahoma, but his heart resided in the Mayan church.
            Jesus asks that we give our all for the Kingdom.  Sometimes our all means our very life.
            Fr. Stanley Francis Rother was beatified by Pope Franics in 2017. His cause is now pending canonization. (Fr. Stanley Rother) was an ordinary man who found extraordinary courage in his faith.He followed Jesus’ call to serve the poorest of the poor in Central America. Fr. Stan left behind the comforts of parish life in America. He passed through the suffering of the cross and found paradise with Christ. 
            What is Jesus calling you to do for his Kingdom?

Monday, January 6, 2020

Homily – Epiphany

 Isaiah 60:1-6
Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
Matthew 2:1-12
Today we see the Magi bringing gifts to Jesus at Epiphany.
Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg wrote this about Epiphany: “The gifts the Magi brought are all symbolic statements of who Jesus is. Gold is the gift proper for a King. Frankincense was offered by the High Priest to God in the Temple of Jerusalem. Myrrh was used as a perfume in the burial preparation of a body. Thus, the identity of Jesus is manifested in these three gifts: He is King, God (and/or High Priest) and Man (someone who will die).
In one way or another, each of us makes the statement of who Jesus is to us based on the gifts we offer from our lives. For some, Jesus is a small part of their lives whose reign extends only to an hour on Sunday morning. Such a limited understanding of Jesus will be reflected in an equally limited gift of one’s life to the Lord. For others, Jesus is the Lord of their lives twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. Such a comprehensive understanding of Jesus will likewise be reflected in an all-encompassing gift of one’s life to the Lord. We tend to give a person the gift that is appropriate because we believe they deserve it and that they can use it.”
What gifts can we offer the world?
Perhaps this can be your New Year’s resolution.
In the world today, our cynical culture would have us acting in ways that are not in keeping with the Gospel values. 
Perhaps we should consider revolting against cultural norms and embracing New Year’s resolutions that are truly aligned with God’s plan for each of us.
I’ve looked over advice from Pope Francis over the years and found some wonderful gift ideas. And offer these New Year’s Resolutions-Pope Francis Edition for us all to consider in this new year.
The first resolution: Don’t Gossip or Judge. 
We all do it.  Yes, even this deacon.  After all, we’re human.  But is this what God would have us do?  Is this what Jesus would have us do?
Pope Francis says when we gossip, we “are doing what Judas did,” and “begin to tear the other person to pieces.”  
“Every time we judge our brothers (and sisters) in our hearts or worse when we speak badly of them with others, we are murdering Christians… There is no such thing as innocent slander.” 
The next resolution to consider: Make time for others.       
In our fast-paced world, this is not an easy one. To make time for others, we have to slow down the pace of our lives and carve out time in our busy schedules to be with or help or encourage others. This ministry of presence can be the greatest gift of all for someone struggling in the world.
            Pope Francis does this every day when he carves time out of his busy schedule to call people who have just lost a loved one or suffered some tragedy to offer his love and prayers. Or he does this every time he pens a handwritten letter to someone he doesn’t know. It’s a part of his daily routine. We should make it a part of ours, too. 
          Another Pope Francis-inspired New Year’s resolution: Meet the poor “in the flesh.”
         Commitment to the poor must be “person to person” and “in the flesh.”
            Sure, we have institutions that are there to help people in need, but, Pope Francis says, “They do not excuse us from our establishing personal contact with the needy.”
            Pope Francis says this must be “a long-term commitment.”  Not just a one-time act of charity. 
In the coming year, this community will discuss ways to do this better. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. 
          Another resolution: Make it a habit to ask the Lord. 
Make time for prayer in our daily lives and ask God for help, ask God for advice, ask God what to do about a difficult situation, and then in the stillness of your heart, listen.  You might be surprised by what you hear.
And one final Pope Francis inspired New Year’s resolution: Be happy.
Pope Francis has said a lot about a true Christian exuding great joy always.  He says joy cannot be held in, it must be let out. 
In the first major document of his Papacy, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis says this joy should always remind us of loving our neighbor.
He actually scolds “melancholy Christian faces” as having “more in common with pickled peppers than the joy of having a beautiful life.” 
        The epiphany of all these Pope Francis inspired New Year’s resolutions (you knew I had to go there)… the epiphany in all these resolutions is it’s exactly what Christ did during his earthly ministry.
                        Don’t Gossip or Judge
                        Make time for others
                        Meet the poor “in the flesh”
                        Make it a habit to ask the Lord
                        Be happy
            The epiphany is Christ did all these things two-thousand years ago. This is why Pope Francis rings so true in our world today. 
            Maybe one or two of these gifts ring true in your heart. I would encourage you to have the courage to bring these gifts to the world as your New Year’s Resolution.

Homily – The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

 Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14
1st Corinthians 3:12-17
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
Today is the solemnity of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
We all know their story well and can learn from them how we are called to live as holy families.
 I find the message in Sacred Scripture this week woven into the fabric of my own family’s story. Perhaps you can see this scripture in the tapestry of your family, too.
The primary role of the parent is to protect the safety of their children, especially the most vulnerable family members.
I cannot help but think of the pains my parents went through to protect my ailing sister from her congenital heart defect. The countless number of hospital visits and painful surgeries. They lived at Providence Hospital in Seattle for many months during my sister’s short life.
I cannot help but think about how my mother protected my brothers and me after our father’s suicide in 1975. Immediately insisting that we all work with therapists to come to terms with this deep wound that would resonate in our family life for years to come.
I cannot help but think of my brother-in-law who saved our youngest son from certain injury or even death, when an innocent sledding trip to Mt. Spokane nearly turned into a disaster. Our four-year-old son was in a little plastic toboggan on a small hillside near the ski resort when one push sent the toboggan dangerously careening off the sled hill track and onto the ski hill and headed for the side of a wood and concrete wall. Danny would run at top speed to stop the sled from crashing into the side of the ski lodge inches from disaster as we watched in helpless horror. 
The role of family is to model holiness for all to see.
I cannot help but think of my own wife Mary and how her example of faith inspired me to come back to the Catholic faith I left as a teenager and, by her actions, help me find my own holiness again. What a gift. Much like George Bailey’s wife Mary in It’s A Wonderful Life, my Mary has been my NorthStar, my moral compass, and an inspiration in my faith life.
I cannot help but thank God for allowing me to witness birth for the first time in person on the Feast of St. Stephens as our son Sean was born on the day commemorating the first Christian martyr and one of the first seven deacons of the Catholic Church. And for how God let me witness death in person for the first time on the Feast of St. Francis, a deacon, as my mother-in-law passed from this life as I said prayers alone with her at a hospital room in Spokane.
I had been asking God for a sign that the diaconate was what God wanted for my life. In those experiences, I saw book ends provided by our creator to offer solace and renewed commitment to the call I was feeling.
The events of our lives point to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and help us to see in our families the wellspring of the holiness we are all called to live, and live with great joy and hope.

To help us further reflect on today’s readings, it is my great honor to call forward Pastoral Associate Deanna Tighe.  

Homily - Christmas

Welcome home.
The dictionary defines the word home this way:
           “the place where one lives permanently” 
Where do you permanently live? Have you found home yet?
Jesus came into our world to show us all the way home.
He came into our world without a home. Born in a place where animals lived and fed, in a humble manger, Jesus became our home.
To enter the humble existence of his birth scene, we are all called to change our way of thinking about home (the place where one lives permanently).
Pope Francis said something quite profound about this change, this conversion, we are all called to live daily.
“Jesus does not ask us to love him as a response to his love for us, rather he asks us to love one another with his own love. He asks us to be like him, because he has become like us.”
            This is home, my sisters and brothers. This is how we find the place where we live permanently. 
Pope Francis recently quoted a man who was made a saint this year, St. John Henry Newman, who said “Christmas should find us always more like (Jesus), who at this time became a child for love of us. Every Christmas should find us more simple, more humble, more saintly, more charitable, more resigned, more happy, more full of love.”
St. John Henry Newman also called this change a conversion – an interior transformation. ”Here on earth to live is to change, and to change often is to become more perfect.” More like Jesus.
Pope Francis calls this our pilgrimage. This pilgrimage has been ongoing for the entirety of human existence.
For Abraham, father of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths, home was a pilgrimage to the Promised land.
2,000 years ago, home was a pilgrimage to Galilee to follow Jesus. And in that pilgrimage Jesus became our home.
What change in thinking do you need to undergo at this point in your pilgrimage through life?
As Pope Francis reminds us, “Christmas is the feast of the love of God for us. Divine love inspires, guides… and defeats the human fear of leaving the ‘secure’ and launching out in the ‘mystery’.”
            At St. Patrick Catholic Parish we have a tradition of seeking wisdom from the entirety of our community. At this time, I’d like to welcome forward our gifted prophet Lisa Dennison to guide us further along on this pilgrimage toward home.

Homilia - Cristo Rey

¡Viva Cristo Rey! 
¡Viva Cristo Rey!
En México, estas palabras tienen un significado especial y recuerdan a todos, el sacrificio de una de las víctimas de la Guerra de los Cristeros, la muerte de un niño de 14 años llamado Joselito, San José Luis Sánchez del Río.
¿Quizás conoces su historia? Su historia es de sacrificio por su fe. Sacrificio hasta la muerte.
San Joselito creció fuera de Guadalajara en Jalisco, en la ciudad de Sahuayo. Cuando tenía 13 años, estalló la Guerra de los Cristeros entre el pueblo mexicano que apoyaba a la Iglesia Católica y el gobierno mexicano que perseguía a la Iglesia.
Durante varios años, los sacerdotes católicos fueron detenidos y asesinados por el gobierno. Esta persecución de la Iglesia duró varios años mientras tanto el gobierno se apoderó de los bienes de la Iglesia, cerró escuelas religiosas y conventos, además de ejecutar a muchos sacerdotes.
En esta guerra tomo parte un niño, tan comprometido con su fe que quiso dar su vida por Jesús y se unió a las fuerzas rebeldes. Sus hermanos se habían unido a los rebeldes y él quería ir con ellos aún en contra de la voluntad de su madre.
Al principio, el general rebelde Mendoza se negó a dejar que Joselito se uniera a los rebeldes debido a su edad. Pero movido por su compromiso de dar su vida por Jesucristo eventualmente lo dejó convertirse en el abanderado de la tropa.
Durante los intensos combates del 25 de enero de 1928, el caballo del general Mendoza fue asesinado y Joselito dejó que el general tuviera su caballo para que los combates pudieran continuar. Las tropas gubernamentales capturaron al niño durante los combates y lo encerraron en la sacristía de la Iglesia local.
Las tropas gubernamentales le ordenaron a Joselito renunciar a su fe en Cristo y lo amenazaron de muerte. Pero Joselito se negó.
Para romper su determinación, Joselito se vio obligado a ver el ahorcamiento de otro Cristero que estaba bajo custodia. Pero Joselito animó al condenado, diciéndole que pronto se encontrarían de nuevo en el cielo. Joselito rezaba el rosario todos los días y le permitieron enviar una carta a su madre.
En ella le dijo que estaba listo para cumplir la voluntad de Dios y morir por Jesús. Su padre trató de recaudar dinero para liberar a Joselito, pero no pudo convencer al gobierno de que lo liberara.
El 10 de febrero de 1928, el gobierno intentó quebrantar a Joselito. Un verdugo cortó la parte inferior de sus pies mientras el gritaba de dolor. Más tarde, se le hizo caminar por la ciudad hasta el cementerio. También lo cortaron con un machete mientras lo hacían andar por la ciudad.
Con los pies cortados hasta el hueso, se vio obligado a andar a través de la ciudad. Lloró de dolor, pero no cedió. Joselito estaba rodeado de pistoleros armados mientras experimentaba su Pasión, mientras la gente del pueblo miraba con horror.
A veces, las tropas se detenían y decían: "Si gritas "Muerte a Cristo Rey", te perdonaremos la vida. Joselito sólo gritaba: "Nunca me rendiré. ¡Viva Cristo Rey!"
La tortura continuó hasta el cementerio. Joselito fue tentado por sus captores a renunciar a Jesús, pero él siguió repitiendo: "¡Viva Cristo Rey!"
Cuando finalmente llegaron al cementerio, las tropas lo hicieron andar hacia el frente de una tumba recién excavada.
Su madre y su padre estaban allí. Su padrino era el alcalde de la ciudad dijo: "Sólo di las palabras y puedes volver a casa".
Con lágrimas, Joselito negó con la cabeza, y dijo: "Te amo". Y una última vez en voz baja dijo: "¡Viva Cristo Rey!"
Su verdugo lo apuñaló al oír estas palabras.  Mientras caía muriendo, cavó el signo de la cruz en el suelo dentro de la cual su sangre comenzó a juntarse. Al ver esto, su verdugo inmediatamente le disparó matándolo.
Joselito fue venerado como mártir por el Papa Juan Pablo Segundo el 2004, beatificado un año más tarde por el Papa Benedicto Dieciseis y canonizado el 16 de octubre del 2016 por el Papa Francisco.
Los restos de San José Luis Sánchez del Río están consagrados sobre un altar lateral en la Iglesia de Santiago Apóstol en su ciudad natal de Sahuayo.
¡Viva Cristo Rey!
San Joselito hizo el sacrificio final por Jesús.
Nosotros también estamos llamados a sacrificarnos por Jesús. Afortunadamente, nuestro sacrificio es pequeño en comparación con el de él.
Durante esta época del año, el sacrificio que estamos llamados a hacer es ayudar a financiar nuestro hermoso ministerio aquí en Cristo Nuestra Esperanza.
Cuando llegaron esta noche, les entregaron las tarjetas de compromiso para el año que viene.
Por favor, llénenlas ahora y colóquelas en la cesta de la recolección.                          Sus promesas de donaciones semanales o mensuales garantizarán que nuestra comunidad en español en el centro de Seattle siga creciendo.
Dios sacrifica todo por nosotros. Sólo nos pide que sacrifiquemos un poco para ayudar a construir su reino.  


Viva Cristo Rey! 
Viva Cristo Rey!
In Mexico, these words have special meaning and remind everyone of the sacrifice of one of the victims of Cristeros War, the death of a 14-year-old boy named Joselito, Saint Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio.
Perhaps you know his story? His story is one of sacrifice for his faith. Sacrifice to the point of death.
Saint Joselito grew up outside Guadalajara in Jalisco, in the town of Sahuayo. When he was 13, the Cristero War broke out between the people of Mexico who supported the Catholic Church and the Mexican government who were persecuting the Church.
For several years, Catholic priests were being rounded up killed by the government. This persecution of the Church lasted for several years as the government seized Church property, closed religious schools and convents, in addition to executing many priests.
Into this war, stepped a boy so committed to his faith that he wanted to give his life for Jesus and joined the rebel forces. His brothers had joined the rebels and he wanted to go with them against his mother’s will.
At first, rebel general Mendoza refused to let Joselito join the rebels because of his age. But moved by his commitment to give his life for Jesus Christ eventually he let him become the flagbearer for the troop.
During heavy fighting on January 25, 1928, general Mendoza’s horse was killed and Joselito let the general have his horse so the fighting could continue. Government troops captured the boy during the fighting and imprisoned him in the sacristy of the local Church.
Government troops ordered Joselito the renounce his faith in Christ and threatened him with death. But Joselito refused.
To break his resolve, Joselito was forced to watch the hanging of another Cristero who was in custody. But Joselito encouraged the condemned man, saying they would soon meet again in heaven. Joselito prayed the rosary daily and was allowed to send a letter to his mother.
In it he said he was ready to fulfill the will of God and die for Jesus. His father tried to raise money to have Joselito freed, but was unable to convince the government to let him go.
On February 10, 1928, the government tried to break Joselito. A torturer cut the bottom of his feet as he cried out in pain. Later, he was made him walk around town to the cemetery. They also cut him with a machete as they marched him around town.
With feet cut to the bone, he was forced to march through the town. He cried out in pain, but did not give in. Joselito was surrounded by armed gunman as he experienced his Passion as the townspeople looked on in horror.
At times, the troops would stop and say, “if you shout “Death to Christ the King,” we will spare your life. Jose would only shout, “I will never give in. Viva Cristo Rey!”
The torture continued all the way to the cemetery. Joselito was be tempted by his captors to renounce Jesus, he kept repeating, “Viva Cristo Rey!”
When they finally arrived at the cemetery, the troops marched him in front of a freshly dug grave.
His mother and father were there. His father said, “Just say the words and you can come home.”
Through his tears, Joselito shook his head no, said, “I love you.” And said one last time softly said, “Viva Cristo Rey!”
His executioner stabbed him upon hearing these word.  As he laid dying on the ground, he dug the sign of the cross in the ground into which his blood started to pool. Seeing this, his executioner immediately shot him dead.
Joselito was venerated as a martyr by Pope John Paul the Second in 2004, beatified one year later by Pope Benedict the Sixteenth and Canonized on October 16, 2016 by Pope Francis.
The remains of St. Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio are enshrined above a side altar in the Church of St. James the Apostle in his hometown of Sahuayo.
Viva Cristo Rey!
St. Joselito gave the ultimate sacrifice for Jesus.
We too are called to sacrifice for Jesus. Thankfully, our sacrifice is small by comparison.
During this time of the year, the sacrifice we are called to give is to help fund our beautiful Spanish ministry here at Christ Our Hope.
You were handed pledge cards for the coming year as you arrived tonight.
Please fill them out now and put them in the basket at the collection.
Your weekly or monthly donation pledge will ensure we can continue to grow our Spanish language community in downtown Seattle.
God sacrifices everything for us. He only asks that we sacrifice a little to help build up his kingdom.

Homily – Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday)

For years, my wife and I would return to her family home in Spokane during the holidays and we always had a great expectation for a big snowstorm. The kind Mary experienced as a child growing up in eastern Washington. The kind I experienced a few times as a young boy growing up here in the Puget Sound area and several times while in college in Pullman.
Our great expectation was to go home, spend time with family at the holidays, and experience a giant snowstorm. 
But, alas, it never happened. In all years we would go to Spokane at Christmas to visit with Mary’s dad, mom, sister and brother, big snow would be in the forecast. But it would never fall.
What great expectation do you have in our life?
A peace-filled Christmas season? Reconciliation with an estranged loved one? A cure for a disease your spouse, loved one or friend is battling? 
John the Baptist had a great expectation, too. As the herald of the Messiah, his great expectation was that Jesus would be the chosen one to unite and lead Israel and bring about the reign of God.
John declared to the people, “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals.” 
John knew his whole life that Jesus was the Messiah. He even knew in the womb.
Yet, this week, we see an imprisoned John, depressed and disillusioned and wondering if, in fact, Jesus is the chosen one. Many Jews in John’s time were expecting a great political or military leader. Jesus is anything but.
Jesus ministry echoes today’s first reading from Isaiah to remind John (and all of us) what the reign of God looks like: “the blind regain sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the Good News proclaimed to them”
Merciful healings, wholeness and re-creation of all things; Jesus reminds us to look for all these signs to see what the reign of God looks like in our own lives. 
Scholars say, “Jesus defines his role as not of sovereignty or judgment, as expected, but as one of blessing on the needy.”
Blessing on the needy is how Jesus – how God – shows His love for us.  
We are all needy or poor in spirit at times… in desperate need of God’s love.  Many times God comforts us in beautiful ways.
When the Kingdom breaks into our human existence – God’s intervention is seen in wondrous things. This is a saving God who brings new life. The one referred to by the Prophet Isaiah today.
Just as “the desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom,” God’s love for us dawns in our lives in radiant beauty.
Not that we will be cured of our physical ailments. But we will find comfort. And we will see wondrous things!
The Letter of Saint James reminds us we must both be patient and prepared for the coming of the Lord.  
The coming birth of Jesus is the dawn of God's reign.
Dawn is coming.  And darkness will be driven away soon by a holy light. 
In November of 2002, Mary’s dad Jack was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor. He was given just a few months to live.
But those few months miraculously turned into an entire year allowing Jack’s family to show their great love for him and say goodbye.
A year after his diagnosis, we gathered in Spokane on Jack’s final Christmas and celebrated as a complete family one last time together. It was a beautiful, joy-filled gathering.  One we all will cherish forever.
As we said our final goodbye and left Spokane a few days after Christmas, Jack went to bed and never woke up again. He died on December 29th, 2003.
We got the news the day after we drove home and immediately piled our two sons back into the car to return home to Spokane.
We arrived to a house filled with great darkness, sadness and pain. 
As we started planning the funeral, the weather forecast suddenly changed. Snow was coming our way. Meteorologists were predicting a major snowstorm. We tried not to get our hopes up.
On the morning of New Year’s Eve day, the snow began to fall, and fall, and fall.  By noon, it was a near whiteout blizzard; dumping like we’d never seen before. Over the course of 18 hours, nearly three feet of snow piled up in Spokane.
We took our boys to a favorite family sledding spot behind nearby Whitworth College for the first time. As Mary, sons Sean and Connor, sister Beth and brother Danny cascaded down the steep hill, we all rejoiced in this long-awaited great expectation of big snow. It’s one of our most cherished family memories.
It was a light that came during a time of great darkness, a time we were comforted by our loving God in a breathtaking way.
The big snow lifted our spirits allowing us the grace to experience faith, hope and love as we commended Jack’s soul to our heavenly father at his funeral a few days later. 
 On this Gaudete Sunday, as we rejoice in the expected coming of baby Jesus, may your great expectations be fulfilled.  May you find what you are seeking in the coming of our Lord and savior.  May you experience the loving comfort of God in your time of need.

And may the coming birth of the Messiah be a reminder that love is the greatest expectation of them all. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s great love for us.