Hi everyone, and welcome to Weekly Homilies with Father Mark Suslenko, Pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. We are part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. I'm Carol Vassar, parish director of communications, and this is Episode 3 of Season 5 for the Third of Advent: December 12, 2021. Our Gospel reading is from Luke, Chapter 3, verses 10-18
The crowds asked John the Baptist, “What should we do?” He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”
Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.
The Gospel of the Lord
“Infinite Love” by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut
Today is Gaudete Sunday: the Sunday of rejoicing; the Sunday of joy.
When was the last time you experienced joy? When was the last time you experienced joy? How we understand that word and what it means to us is then, of course, going to determine whether we experience it or not. Many times, we define joy in terms of happiness, in terms of a sense of wellbeing, a sense of completeness.
And because we understand joy in those terms, we tend to defer it to some future time other than now, because now is too complicated. We wrongly believe that in order to be joyful, our lives have to be stress-free. Maybe we think that we have to resolve an illness that we're dealing with. Maybe we're grieving the death of someone we love. Maybe life is bringing us down a difficult path. Maybe the pandemic has us overly anxious. And we begin to think that when all of those things are resolved, then, and only then, can I experience joy, can I find peace or happiness.
But that particular understanding of joy misses the full picture of what it really is.
Yes, there's an element of our happiness tied into joy. There's an element of experiencing peacefulness tied into joy. But the reality of joy itself is far greater and far deeper and has nothing to do with the circumstances of our lives.
Consider this for a moment as our human experiences can often imitate the divine ones. Think of someone that is exceptionally close to you, someone you would consider an extremely close friend, spouse. When that person first told you they loved you, how did you feel? When someone we care about, someone we admire, someone we want to be in relationship with says to us, "I love you," that becomes a game-changer. In many ways, the feeling that it evokes is truly a leap. We find ourselves somewhat energized, excited a bit. Because this individual, especially if it's a parent, unconditionally has expressed something to us about us. That's a glimmer of joy. If you have ever had the wonderful privilege of watching the birth of a baby, there's something just so dramatically special about that event, and it truly does bring us to a place of joy.
I've had conversations with people who have even accompanied their loved ones to their final moments of death. And when they finally breathed their last will actually express that it was joyful. It was joyful.
Even in other little ways, in preparing for mass at the eight o'clock mass, just before this one, one of our younger parishioners was celebrating her seventh birthday, and she was all excited because after Mass we're going to have a party.
And that one little simple event, that little encounter, lifts you. It brings you to a different place. You see, joy is not bound to this world. It lifts us to something else. It brings us to a deeper place. Have you ever noticed, even in scripture, right from the beginning of scripture, to the end, the word joy bounces all over the place? There are all kinds of rejoicing going on in this psalm: sing to the Lord, our psalm today. Joy! The baby leaped in his mother's womb. Joy! Mary was joy-filled. Do you ever wonder why that is? Because if you peel away all that scripture is in its essence, really, it's a story of God's love affair with human beings. God seeking out human beings and human beings seeking out God.
And guess what happens when they find each other? The experience is one of joy. It can't be anything else. It's joy. And so to really define joy as what it really is, we have to make it originate from the divine. And really what it is is when you and I realize something very profound about ourselves, something the world cannot give.
And it's this: that we are infinitely loved; infinitely loved. And that the essence of my being, my soul , is held in being, cared for and nurtured, because it is infinitely loved, and nothing can happen to it. And when we take that from our brains and bring it down into our soul, It becomes a part of us. That's why a lot of the saints are joyful people. They're not running around with the burdens of the world on them. There's a freedom, a life, an energy, that isn't found in other folks. And so when we begin to realize that we are infinitely loved, then even if our life is difficult, even if it's challenging, confusing, hurtful, and somewhat dark, we can still experience joy. Because when it's living in our souls, we realize that those things that I worry about, those things that are concerning me, all of those pieces of my world, no matter how difficult they get, they don't win. God wins. God wins. And when we begin to realize that what it produces within us is a certain measure of excitement, a depth of life, a confidence that is bred of those three friends. I reference so often: faith, hope, and love, that clinging to those, we experience joy because we know that we are infinitely loved, every fabric of our being infinitely loved. And isn't that the message of Advent? We're getting ready to celebrate God's infinite love of humanity. Emmanuel. God with us. One with us. Not to judge us, not to tell us what we're doing wrong, not to penalize us, not to make life overly difficult for us, but to send a very simple message to a broken world that doesn't know who it is or what it's supposed to be doing.
And the message is you are infinitely loved, infinitely loved. So here's a wonderful mid-Advent spiritual exercise we can try this week as we hasten toward Christmas. As you're doing your regular routine of prayer, add this one: Lord, help me know in the depth of my soul, that I am infinitely loved by you. Help me know that I am infinitely loved by you.
It will change your life.
Father Mark Suslenko is the pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Learn more about our parish community www.isidoreandmaria.org. And follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our music comes free of charge from Blue Dot Sessions in Fall River, Massachusetts. I’m Carol Vassar. Thanks for joining us.