Saturday, December 20, 2008

Homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent

Once upon a time there was a woodcutter named Steve. Steve worked for a company for five years but never got a raise in his wages. The company hired fellow who was a famous woodcutter named Fr.John and within a year he got a raise. This caused resentment in Steve and he went to his boss to talk about it.

The boss said, "You are still cutting the same number of trees you were cutting five years ago. We are a result-oriented company and would be happy to give you a raise if your productivity goes up." Steve went back, started chopping harder and putting in longer hours but he still wasn't able to cut more trees. He went back
to his boss and told him his dilemma.

The boss told Steve to go talk to Fr.John that most famous woodcutter,

"Maybe there is something Fr.John knows that you and l don't." Steve asked Fr.John how he managed to cut more trees. Fr.John answered, "After every tree l cut, l take a break for two minutes and sharpen my axe. When was the last time you sharpened your axe?" This question hit home like the thwack of Fr.Johns axe and Steve got his answer.

But before we examine the moral of my little backwoods story lets take a look at today's readings.

Now David was king of a united country, Jerusalem was the capital, David set about building a house (temple) for the Lord. (First Reading). But the Lord pre-empted David's plan. Instead it is the Lord who will build a dynasty for David, a dynasty that will last for ever...

.... but Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 BC it seemed that the promise would not be fulfilled. Still, the hope remained that a Messiah would come from the house of David.

The expectation was fulfilled when Gabriel announced to Mary that she was to be the mother of the Redeemer, who, through Joseph, would be of the line of David. Gabriel's words echo the words of God's promise to David.

In the Second Reading Paul says that these promises made in Old Testament times have been fulfilled in the person and life of Jesus.

Today many still seek fulfillment and happiness through 'doing their own thing'. It's what I want that matters. They believe that happiness lies in having no commitments, no one to answer to, no one whose needs or problems will ever tie us down.

Last week fr.John talked to us about John the baptist and how he knew who he was and he knew who he was not. And how we need to know the same thing. In doing this self in-looking we also can learn (or discern) what God is asking of us.

Nevertheless, human nature being what it is, we have to be on our guard. There can be a lot of selfishness in the 'do your own thing' approach. It often means taking the easiest path in the belief that this is where freedom and happiness lie. But this approach is more likely to lead to slavery and unhappiness.

Here is an important truth: freedom, happiness, and fulfillment are more likely to be found in the acceptance of duty. However, for this to happen, a grim acceptance of duty is not good enough. It has to be a loving acceptance of duty. The more difficult the task to which we devote ourselves out of love, the more it will exalt us.

In this Mary gives us a great example. She didn't say to the angel, 'Sorry, but I have my own plans. I want to do my own thing.' She said, It's not what I want, but what God wants that matters. Let what God wants be done to me.' Mary made a complete gift of herself to God, and accepted the task he gave her. Even though she didn't understand all the implications of it, she trusted that God would give her all the help she needed.

In effect she was saying, 'I don't know what all this means, but I trust that good things will happen.' She trusted so deeply in God that she was open to all possibilities. She gave up control over her future and let God define her life.

Life imposes a lot of duties on us. Besides duties to ourselves, there are duties to others, and duties to God. Where would the world be if everyone just thought of themselves, and insisted on doing their own thing, seeking their own freedom, happiness, and fulfilled independent of others and of God?

Those who accept duty as Mary did, may not find happiness and fulfillment in the eyes of the world, but they certainly will find it in eyes of God. And deep down they will know it.
The greatest grace in life is when what we have to do is what we want to do.

Now... to get back to that world famous lumberjack.

So My Dear friends When did you sharpen your axe last ?

In other words you need to hone your tools that you need to understand what god asks of you.

When did you sharpen your sense of when your prayer time will take place?
When did you sharpen your knowledge of the gifts that God has given you.. last ?
When did you sharpen your Christian commitment last ?

You use all these things and many others in daily life, in your family life, in your job. And especially during certain times of the year that pose special challenges.

With Christmas come many challenges in the many family gatherings, the pressure we feel the give material gifts, the challenge to celebrate a special Christian day in a secular world.

So Keep your axe sharp, except your duties joyfully, keeping God and others in mind so that you have Blessed and joy filled Merry Christmas.

Christmas blessings from Deacon Steve

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