Hope and Joy
In this beautiful homily for 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year C, Father Hanly talks about hope, because “hope runs before faith, and hope dances around the joy of having a oneness with God Himself.”
Readings for Third Sunday of Advent, Year C
- First Reading: Zephaniah 3:14-18
- Responsorial Psalm: Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6
- Second Reading: Philippians 4:4-7
- Gospel: Luke 3:10-18
You notice today that we have a change in the four candles. The third candle is what many people call the pink candle, but it sounds nicer to call it the rose candle. So, today, we have the rose candle, because it is a sign of rejoicing.
Someone asked me the other day how come we don’t wear rose vestments and how come the trimmings on the altar are not rose. And, of course, these people come from other countries where, for centuries, it was the custom to use rose as the colour of today in all the decorations.
But in the actual liturgy itself, it says the colour rose is an option, probably because so many churches in the early church were so poor they couldn’t afford to buy the kind of materials just one day a year to change the whole world into rose.
The reason that rose is such a special colour, of course, is because it emphasizes the main message of Advent, which is hope.
If you have ever been up very early, before the sun rises, and you see the sun rising, especially in the sea or open area, you will see that the clouds (the first thing you see are the clouds) they are filled with the colour of a rose.
And so rose means the new dawning of a new day and, for Christians, the new dawning of a new life.
Rose is a very special one of the three theological virtues, the virtues that bind us to God and God is bound to us. Rose is the colour that expresses the hope.
The three theological virtues are, as you know, faith, hope and charity. Now faith, hope and charity are words we use all the time, but Charles Péguy, the poet, has a way of expressing what they really mean in their depth and in a very special way which I will allude to right now.
Charles Péguy was a French poet who died in the First World War, but he wrote a book on hope. So his favourite virtue, of course, was hope.
And he spoke of faith. And he spoke of faith as a mother: a mother that is faithful and true to all her children; a mother that is like a rock in the family and a shelter in the storm. And this is faith. And so you get the image of a very strong, totally dedicated mother whose faith will remain firm for centuries and centuries.
Then he talks about charity. Faith, hope and love (or charity). He says charity, or love, is a virtue that is also like a mother. But she is a giver. She is more like a mother in the home. She is a mother who gives and gives and gives, and all the poor people come to the door and, each day, she continues to give the bread that they need for their daily bread.
These are two lovely images, but they both depict very strong kind of women.
And the third one, of course, is hope. And when he gets to hope he has this lovely image. He said, “But hope is a little girl that wishes me, every morning she gets up and wishes me good day.”
And he was alluding to something very important. Because hope is like that little girl. Every morning, when the dawn, the rosy sun comes up and the dawn arrives, and we rise to say a prayer, it is hope that is in our heart, because we hope that the sun we see will also be one day our possession for all eternity in eternal life.
So she is the third virtue.
And she is the most important one, because the lady with great faith and with great strength needs hope, because hope runs before faith. Have you ever noticed that? Hope is the virtue that runs before faith. We hope before we have our faith and so hope is very important.
And what of love?
Hope is the virtue that dances around like a little girl singing and dancing around the virtue of charity, because Christian charity is done with great joy. And our faith is done with great joy. And hope is really the sign and symbol of joy which we celebrate today.
So what are we supposed to do?
Well, what we are supposed to do is nothing, because we are watching and waiting.
On the other hand, we have some very important work to do, and that is, perhaps, to begin to understand the real meaning of Advent, why we are here and why today we rejoice with great joy.
We do not rejoice just because Christmas is coming and we celebrate a feast, a feast that took place in time. We do celebrate that, and it is right that we should, but we celebrate something else.
As St. Paul tells us: we rejoice in the Lord always; in the Lord we rejoice. It is the presence of God Himself, His Son, one with us, day in, day out. This is why we rejoice.
Because we begin the morning with an understanding that there is always faith (God’s faith in us and our faith in God), there is always love (God’s love for us and our love for God), and, most of all, it should ignite our hearts so that we would dance and sing because there is always hope.
And hope runs before faith, and hope dances around the joy of having a oneness with God Himself.
So, on this Advent day, think of those things.
I think the most important thing about Advent is to begin to see how blind we are, and how we should have strong perceptions.
And maybe this is one thing we could do during Advent, is to look and look again at the ordinariness of our lives.
God did not create us so that we’d rejoice in just each other as Christians; he created us so that we could walk out the door and see the whole world filled with the splendour of God’s faith, and the splendour of God’s love, and the joyfulness of creation itself. And this is what he expects of us.
And I’ll end with a little story.
Joshua Bell, you probably all know who Joshua Bell is. He is perhaps one of the greatest violinists, very young still, but one of the greatest violinists in the world.
And there was a group from The Washington Post that decided to try an experiment. And what they did was, they asked Joshua Bell to go into the Washington Metro and, for one hour, to play music on his violin and see what would happen.
And so Joshua went down, and he took off his hat and put it on the ground in the Metro, and he began to play the fiddle or the violin.
And, as he played (he was only going to do it for one hour) after a couple of minutes, a man stopped, frowned, smiled, and left.
And then, after him, came a woman who was very busy. And she appreciated the man being there, you know, but she had no time to listen, so she threw a dollar into his hat and then she ran on.
Then, after another time, children came. And every child that came with a mother, the mother would not stop, but the child would hear the music and want to stop. And she would pull him and tug him until he finally left, always turning his head behind, looking at the fiddler playing the music.
After one hour, they did a tabulation, and only twenty people stopped, but none stayed. They all left, stopped and left after a moment. The total collection of those that did, he got US$34 for his hour’s work in the hat.
And that seemed to satisfy him. But when you think of it, what do you think of it?
He was playing on a violin that was worth HK$32 million. He was the greatest violinist in the United States and, perhaps, in the world. He was playing Bach’s six most difficult and intricate pieces of music, and he was playing them to utter perfection.
And when it was all over, there was only silence. Nobody clapped, nobody cheered, nobody even heard. They all had something else to do.
This is a great story. The idea is: when you walk down the street, you might run into Joshua on the corner, playing his violin, and you are going to say, “Well, I’ve got to go to Central. Well, I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do that…”
And what this little story is telling us is, the world is full of the grandeur of God. It reaches out like a shook foil, it’s brilliant and blazing, and we’re all walking by to do our little things.
So, during this Advent, it might be a good thing to begin to look and look and look. And stop and hear and listen.
And you will find the music of God. And you will find the music of people. And you will find even the smallest little tin whistle with a run-down fellow, who has probably only got a handful of coins in his pocket, that he will be your Christmas.
And you will understand why Jesus comes as a little child, helpless and needy.
Because we are all little children and when we begin to see in each and every one of us the child Jesus, well, then, the little child becomes something very special.
So, today is Rose Sunday, Gaudete Sunday.
You don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to score any points. You don’t have to do prayers all day long. You don’t have to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
All you have to do is remember, when you’re walking down through the streets, the streets are covered with magical, lovely, wonderful things, if you only learn to see and to hear, and love the way Jesus loves them: with a love that is everlasting.