Monday, December 18, 2017

Homily Third Sunday of Advent Cycle B December 17, 2017

          For my homily today I would like to look at our second reading from the first letter of St Paul to the Thessalonians.  What we have is part of the conclusion of that letter.  And so St Paul, as he ends the letter, gives a kind of quick summary and re-cap of his previous themes in the letter.
          Paul states:  Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
          So far, so good. Then St. Paul says:  Do not quench the Spirit.”   That is kind of an odd statement.  What does he mean?  “Do not quench the Spirit.”  
          I presume he means not to stifle the Holy Spirit, not to extinguish or suppress the Holy Spirit.   It is kind of an odd piece of advice.
          “Do not quench the Spirit.”  Why would you do that anyway?  Many times the Holy Spirit comes to us bringing a sense of peace, of consolation, of comfort, of assurance of God’s love and care for us.  Why would you quench something like that?   Would you not rather say, “bring it on!”  We all long and look for those kind of experiences of the Spirit, and certainly would not shun or quench them.
          But there is another way the Holy Spirit comes to us.  Not as a warm comforting fire in midst of the cold indifference of life, but rather as a scorching, burning fire of command.  Not as a cool gentle breeze of comfort and reassurance, but a howling gale, a tempest of great wind pushing us in a direction we do not at all want to go.  Not as a cool draught of clear, refreshing water to slake our thirst for God, but as a burning thirst for holiness, for righteousness, for truth, for intimacy with God.  
          Then the temptation is to turn away from the Holy Spirit, to stifle the impulses to greater generosity when during this season we are overwhelmed by appeals:  to get up off our rear ends and volunteer to tutor, or help build homes for others at Habitat for Humanity;  to participate in the St Vincent de Paul Christmas Basket Project;  to examine our conscience, skip our favorite TV program and attend and participate in the Advent Penance Service on Monday;  to write our elected officials about the church’s stances on welcoming the immigrant and the stranger, and protection of all human life from conception to natural death;  to accept and foster the urge to pray more and pray regularly;  to take time to read and pray over Scripture;  to reach out to the lonely neighbor;  to take the opportunity of Christmas to reach out in forgiveness and healing to estranged family members;  to bury the hatchet and move beyond past hurts;  to truly listen and open yourself to – not your will – but God’s Will for you.  “Do not quench the Spirit.”
          A long time ago when I was in college as an undergraduate, I had a plan for myself and that was to become an attorney, and possibly go into politics.  The Spirit had a different idea.  It took some time - a couple of years, and some struggle -  but eventually the Spirit won, and that is why I am standing here before you today.  And I certainly have had a great time.
          All of us have to struggle when the Holy Spirit wants to lead us some place we don’t want to go.  It happens practically every day.  We are lazy, and contented, and often afraid.  The Holy Spirit will have none of it.  The Holy Spirit empowers us to be other-centered, generous, honest, brave, indeed holy.  That takes work.

          The temptation is to resist the Holy Spirit’s promptings:  To stifle, suppress, extinguish, quench the Holy Spirit in our lives.  But the Holy Spirit is the greatest of all gifts and possessions.
          Do not quench the Holy Spirit.  As the most interesting man in the world is fond of saying on TV, “Stay thirsty my friends.”  Thirsty for the Holy Spirit! 
God Bless! 

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