Rejoice! on purpose.

December 17th Sunday Readings.

“Rejoice always!” This Sunday we will hear this call to rejoice from St. Paul. The Churchjared-sluyter-342881 calls this Sunday Gaudate, the priests and deacons wear rose colored vestments, and we are reminded to Rejoice!

I know exactly what this looks like in children. I know what a little kid who is rejoicing looks like. Jumping up and down, boisterously shouting, maybe even fist pumps and high fives. Sometimes children even just sit and stare in unbelief in a stunned zombie like trance, overcome with joy.

While we know what it means to rejoice as a child, I think it is harder to judge what it looks like to rejoice as an adult. Sure, when our alma mater scores on the final drive to upset a hated rival, adults will jump and holler. On the day of a wedding adults will dance and raise glasses, but these are all culturally expected behaviors.

What does it look like when an adult spontaneously rejoices? I’m not sure I know the answer. But what I do know is that we have a whole host of behaviors that we do this time of year that I think are supposed to be the actions of rejoicing that seem to be so far divorced from their reasons that we forget they are actions of rejoicing all together.

As we rejoice on this third Sunday of Advent in anticipation of Christmas, what are we up to? We bake cookies, we decorate, we prepare a large meal, we exchange gifts, we see family and friends socially, we send cards, and more. Why? For me, sometimes, these actions become an end in and of themselves. We bake cookies because they are delicious and we always have. We put up a tree and decorate because we did it last year. We roast a silly amount of meat and buy much wine because people are coming over.

The reality for the Christian is that we bake, decorate, and feast because our Lord Jesus Christ has been born in Bethlehem. We rejoice because Jesus has become human. Jesus has become human to be close to us so that we can be close to God. Jesus has be born to heal, restore, and save us from death forever.

Nostalgia, pleasure, and habit aren’t good enough reasons to rejoice.

When those are our reasons for rejoicing, our joy ultimately falls flat. However, when we rejoice because the God of the universe love us so much that he puts our lives before his, then we rejoice for a right and justified reason. The reason for our celebration is the greatest thing that has ever happened in the history of mankind! God is born to us!

Live It: Say a prayer of thanks when you serve the big meal, open gifts, or pour a glass of wine this Christmas. When rejoicing say, “Because of Jesus!”

Thank you (for reading)

Oct. 9th Sunday Readings.

My mom used to make me write thank you notes. Actually, I feel like she still does. stock-thank-you

Every time I sit down to scratch out a couple sentences of gratitude, I’m transported back to mid January 1988, and I am at the dinning room table and trying to remember which relative gave me which lego set. I guess I should write her a thank you note for making me say thanks.

Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show has a bit on the Friday night show where he has to “catch up on some personal stuff” during the show and writes some humorous thank you notes. “Thank you tissue boxes,” he says as he writes, “for either giving me one tissue or thirty.” Maybe you have to see it for it to be funny.

I think parents are onto something with the whole thank you notes. Jesus would say so. In the gospel this weekend Jesus heals 10 lepers and they leave to show the priests of the Temple. On the way, one realizes he is actually healed and returns to Jesus to say thanks. When does, Jesus asks where the other 9 are who were healed and then says, “Stand up and go. Your faith has saved you.”

How did the leper demonstrate faith? By giving thanks. How should we demonstrate our faith? By giving thanks to God.

Giving thanks doesn’t just demonstrate our faith, it actually makes us happy. Seriously. Multiple studies from places like Oxford and Harvard confirm the old saying:

It’s not that happy people are grateful. Rather people who are grateful are happy.

Saying thank you is a double gift; it’s a two-for-one deal. It’s like giving your dad 9faa4ada55f0493abdf42df86f987d0cGarth Brooks “The Hits” for his birthday when you’re 14; he’s happy and you get a CD you wanted (strangely specific example). What I’m trying to say is that when we give thanks, we get to recognize and take joy in someone else’s work and gift AND we get increased our own joy. It’s like opening the gift or receiving the work a sound time.

Giving thanks makes us happy and better people. The crazy thing is that we can get better at being grateful. The more we do it, the more naturally it comes to us.

So if you want to be happy, if you want to make other people happy, if you want to open a gift a 2nd time, if you want to demonstrate your faith in God, if you want to do what Jesus says, if you want to be saved – write a thank you note. Choose gratitude.

LIVE IT
Idea 1: Write a thank you note. Doesn’t matter to whom or for what, just do it. Make it be fore something for which you are really grateful. When you’re done thank God for that other person in prayer. (how? Say, “God, Thank you for ________ because they ____________.)
Idea 2: Want to grow in gratitude? Keep a daily gratitude journal. At night right before bed, write one thing you are grateful for. After a couple weeks (or couple days), you will probably have more things that you think of, write what what you want. Commit to it for 7, 14, or 21 days and then assess whether you want to continue.

Happy and Pink.

The Good Word for Sunday December 13th ~ For the complete readings click here.

It’s pink candle time! The third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete Sunday.

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You may or may not see your pastor in these “joyful” vestments this Sunday.

Gaudete means “Rejoice!” in Latin. We are over halfway to Christmas and so we take a little break from our quiet preparing for Jesus’ coming at Christmas and rejoice because Jesus is coming at Christmas.

Personally, this Sunday has taken me by surprise. I don’t know about you, but all-of-a-sudden, it’s the third week of Advent. All-of-a-sudden, it is almost Christmas. I think this Sunday is a great opportunity to snap us out of whatever rut we may have fallen into in Advent. The pink candle and the readings at Mass demand us to ask ourselves one simple question, “Am I joyful?”

Well, are you? Hare you happy right now?

Or are you, like most of America it seems, stressed, worried, and anxious? Do you feel overwhelmed or so busy you can’t imagine how everything is going to get done?

Are you happy?

Since we are about to spend an entire Sunday rejoicing, I thought I would find out a little more about what makes people happy. Several large, scientific studies on happiness have been in the works the last couple years and they found two things I think are tremendously interesting.

  1. Happiness is a choice. We decide when we are happy. We make a decision about what will make us happy, sort of a target happiness, and then when we approach it we are happy and when we are far away, we are stressed or sad. That is why the littlest things can overwhelm us with joy and the biggest, most wonderful moments can miss the mark.
  2. Because happiness is a choice, we can reset what makes us happy, and the way to reset what makes us happy is gratitude. According to a Harvard study, backed up by a U Cal Berkley study, it isn’t happy people who are grateful; it is grateful people who are happy. Gratitude resets our happiness target to a place where we already are. We come to recognize that we have exactly what we need to be happy. Grateful people are healthier, happier, and have better relationships. Turns out, gratitude is good for your marriage!

When we go to God with gratitude or thanksgiving, as the second reading says, we will rejoice. The Harvard study gave a couple ways that people in the study successfully cultivated gratitude. Make this the week, in the midst of whatever craziness is coming your way, to try one of these gratitude behaviors out. You will be happy you did.

Live It:

Write a thank you note: Your mom was right. Writing a thank you note can improve a relationship and bring you greater happiness. Send it, deliver it yourself, or even write yourself one! Write one note sometime before Christmas.

Thank someone mentally: Can’t do the note thing? Mentally thank someone. If you recognize someone does something kind or generous for you, mentally thank them.

Keep a gratitude journal: Write one to 5 thinks that you are grateful for each day. Or make a habit of writing in your gratitude each Sunday and then bring those grateful thoughts to Mass and pray through them.

Count your blessings: Same thing as the journal, but without the writing. Doing this each night before bed is a great practice.

Pray: Thank God specifically for the things you are grateful for. The Harvard study specifically mentioned this as a powerful way to cultivate gratitude.

Meditate: Take time in silence to listen for the things that come to mind. Then turn those distractions into prayers or thoughts of gratitude. Use a mantra like, “Thank you, Jesus” to focus your silent time.