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Be Kind

December 12, 2021

A reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year C. The readings are Zephanaiah 3:14-18a; Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6; Philippians 4:4-7 and Luke 3:10-18.

Today we’re going to review some things that we already know, like, for example, that on this Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent we light the rose coloured candle as a reminder that Advent is a time of joy. That is why in the first reading, the prophet Zephaniah tells us to “shout for joy” and “sing joyfully”. The response, taken from the Prophet Isaiah, tells us to “cry out with joy and gladness” and St. Paul tells the Philippians to “rejoice in the Lord always”. And then, because it’s so important, he says, “again, I say, rejoice!” That’s why today is called “Gaudete” Sunday. Gaudete is a word in Latin that means “be joyful”.

But it’s not always easy to be joyful. Especially when we’re tired and when something is hard. And, even though Advent is a time of joy, Advent is also a time of waiting and waiting is hard. We wait for Christmas and we wait for the Messiah to come – but this year, we are also waiting for the pandemic to end. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of this pandemic. I am tired of wearing masks and tired of restrictions and vaccine mandates and proofs of vaccination. I am tired of waiting for it to end. I want it to end now.

And what happens when we’re tired of waiting? We stop being joyful.

Growing up, we had to wait for things. Remember ordering something from the back of cereal box? You had to first, eat the cereal; then you had to cut out the order form; fill it out; go to the post office and mail it and then you’d wait 5, 6 weeks for the gift to arrive and then you had to go to the post office to pick it up! Now, with the click of a mouse, I can order anything I want, from anywhere in the world and it will be at my doorstep in 2 days! Remember writing letters? It would take a week for your letter to get there and then a week for you to get a letter in response! Now, I can send a message and it is immediately received. I can “chat” with anyone, anywhere in the world. Immediately. Instantly.

A friend was telling me recently that she was at the grocery store with her 3-year old and picked the shortest checkout line. (Isn’t’ it always, no matter how hard we try, we pick the slowest line!?) She got all her groceries on the belt and then realized that the man in front of her had about a million coupons. Then she realized that the cashier (it must’ve been her first day or something), was not quite sure how to do coupons. Then something wasn’t working and they had to call the manager. Then the manager realized that it was all wrong (it was her first day and she didn’t know how to do it); and they had to start all over again. All in all, my friend waited (no exaggeration) for half an hour!

Needleless to say she was a bit upset.

We have lost the art of waiting.

We have lost the art of patience.

And when we forget how to wait, how to be patient, we get impatient, we grow more entitled. We are more rude. We do it all the time: with the server, the customer service person, the taxi driver. Impatience is all about “what I want; what I need, right now”. But patience, instead, helps us focus on what others need; what others want.

Which is why the very next thing St. Paul says after “rejoice always” is, “your kindness should be known to all”. How simple. What a great reminder. We know about the corporal works of mercy: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, give shelter to the homeless, visit the sick and those in prison and bury the dead – but this is even more basic: Be kind. Which is why I love that John the Baptist tells people the same thing: Be kind.

The people ask John what do we do? We’ve repented and we’ve been baptised, what now? And it’s not rocket science. They don’t have to go and get a theology degree or be a missionary in Africa. All they have to do is be kind: If you have two coats, give one to someone who has none. If you have extra food, do the same. Don’t cheat people, be fair, don’t be corrupt, don’t exhort people, don’t bully them, don’t lie or accuse people falsely. Be kind, share, be nice, don’t laugh at people, don’t call them names, be polite, say please and thank you, say sorry, say Merry Christmas. Can we do that? Because when we’re tired of this pandemic, we tend to be more rude, more entitled, more impulsive and more impatient with others – and we don’t think about the man who has to use coupons because he doesn’t have enough money for groceries, because groceries are more expensive than a year ago. We don’t think about the young cashier who feels bad because it’s her first day and she doesn’t know how to do coupons. We don’t think about our three-year old who is happy waiting because he’s getting an extra half hour of quality time with his mother.

Waiting teaches us patience and patience forces us to think of the other and helps us be kind, be generous, be polite and be nice. Can we make an extra effort this Advent season to be kind, generous, polite and nice?

It’s an easy way to spread joy all around.

But many of us can do more. This year the foodbanks are in more need than ever. The Saint Vincent de Paul Society and other service agencies need your help. Let’s give more to the food bank. If every year you give a toy to the toy drive, this year give two. Or three. Most of us can do that. There are children who have lived all their lives in a refugee camp; they have nothing, but they are Christians and this year they are celebrating Christmas; anyway they can. And we are complaining that we need to register for Mass. We come to Mass to be fed by the Word and Sacrament. It’s really meaningless if we don’t take it outside. How hard is it to be kind, generous, polite and nice?

And if it’s hard for you, ask Mary to help you. On December 12 we celebrate the Feast of our Lady of Guadalupe. Guadalupe is a great example of how God will do anything with Mary’s intercession. After Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared at in Mexico, over the next 20 years, 9 million Mexicans converted to Christianity. Ask for Mary’s intercession. She will help you. She is the perfect model that teaches us patience and the art of waiting. We know Mary was kind and generous because Scripture tells us that she “kept all these things in her heart.” That means she was not impulsive or impatient. She was kind and generous. She knew how to wait.

We can too.

And when we do, not only will we be spreading joy everywhere we go, but our own hearts will be filled with joy and, as Zephaniah tells us at the end of the first reading today, “the Lord will rejoice over us; He will sing joyfully because of us”. What else do we want if it’s not that God rejoices over us?

This Advent season (and always), let’s be kind, generous, polite and nice.

May our kindness be seen by all.

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