In 2012, I wrote a sermon for the 3rd Sunday of Advent focused on Joy, like I do every year. Joy not in the abstract, but a joy that rises up as resistance to the principalities and powers of this world. It's the joy that can empower a change from what is to what is coming. It's a joy moves us from "how can this be?" to "let it be with me according to your word."
And then came Friday of that week.
The horrific mass killing that would have to change things, right?
Surely of all the slaughters we've endured up till now (a thought that is in itself obscene), this one will make us look at ourselves differently, will make us willing to seek the common good over special interests, will do so shake us to the core that we'd seek to talk to each other rather than past each other to find solutions to what was then considered epidemic. This one will make us question how we treat those with mental disease, how we propagate a violent culture through the media and entertainment industries, and yes, by God, how we have so made an idol of guns that there is nothing we will do to abate their hold on our lives.
It was Friday, what was I to do with that come Sunday? There was no profundity to be found. Just sought to acknowledge what seemed the only response I could give:
Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico gaudete.
"We rejoice this 3rd Sunday of Advent not because it's easy for today it isn't, but because it's true. We rejoice not because we feel like it, for the events of this week have knocked the collective breath out of us, but because this is what we do when we don't know what to do. We rejoice today not because we look at the world naively through "rose" colored glasses, but precisely because after a week like this with the slaughtering of such innocence - the hope, peace, joy and love of God with us, Emmanuel, is all we have left to cling to."
3 years later.
I thought I knew what obscene was in 2012.
I was wrong.
Further entrenchment of positions.
Fear based politics run amok.
Oh, and countless more dead.
I was very wrong 3 years ago. That "the hope, peace, joy and love of God with us, Emmanuel, is all we have left to cling to"..may be true ultimately. But the threshold to be so shocked that we'll change who we are and how we live together seemingly has no limit. Can't cling to Emmanuel when our fingers are on the triggers of our preoccupations.
And just when I think there's no hope to be found I hear the voice of a young girl finding joy...
"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.."
Mother Mary, the voice of joyful resistance, pray for us.