The Darkest Hour is Just Before the Dawn

Homily for Third Sunday of Advent (Year A) – Gaudete Sunday
December 15, 2017
Sacred Heart, EGF – 10:00 AM

Focus:             The darkest hour is just before the dawn.
Function:         Rejoice in hope.


darkest_before_dawn

A young man, weighted down by the guilt of his sin,
feels worthless, powerless, and hopeless.
He’s tried to rise and overcome his sins by his own power for so long.
He continues to fall and to fail.
He is losing hope.

The darkness is great.

It’s Easter night. He’s visiting with his family.  A Christian movie plays in the background, one of those movies that always plays on Easter night.  The acting is cheesy.  He pretends not to watch.

One line stands out to him: “All you have to do is turn to Christ…”

He thinks, “Yeah, if only it were that easy…”
A voice in his heart speaks: “Why can’t it be that easy?”

The light begins to pierce the darkness.

He begins to pray for the grace and courage to make a good confession.

Two weeks later, he enters the confessional. “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.  It’s been four years since my last confession.  These are my sins…”

The priest listens while the young man speaks. The young man finishes, quite embarrassed at what he’s done.  He braces himself for what the priest will say…

The priest smiles, slaps his knee, and says, “Welcome back! Don’t wait so long next time!”

Absolution is granted. He feels the chains fall.  He’s free.  His heart is set ablaze.  Life is breathed into his soul which had been dead in sin.  He leaps for joy.  God is real.  His spirit rejoices in God his Savior.

An elderly woman sits alone at her kitchen table, wrapped in a blanket. She can’t sleep.  It’s been six months since her husband died.  Cancer.  Her heart is heavy.  It’s been heavy for a long time.

The pain of watching him suffer…
The helplessness of not being able to do anything to take away the pain.

She’s scared. She doesn’t know what to do.  He was her heart.  He did everything…paid the bills, fixed things around the house, plowed the driveway.

The driveway…

She sighs as she looks out the window. It’s early.  The light from the moon glistens off the freshly fallen snow.  The driveway is filled in.  She needs groceries but it looks like she won’t be going to the store today…

She was helpless to do anything for him in his sickness and now she feels helpless to do anything for herself.

The darkness is great.

She prays, “O God, how can I go on?”

Then, a noise. The rumbling of a motor.
Snow bursts forth from the ground into the air.

Her neighbor,
a young man with his own family to care for,
with his own driveway to plow out,
with his own job to get to,
walks down her driveway pushing his snowblower as the first streaks of dawn break on the horizon…a glimmer of hope on a cold winter day.

Brothers and sisters, today we celebrate Gaudete Sunday – “rejoice Sunday”.

In the darkest and coldest part of the year,
when the days are nearing their shortest,
the Church bids us to rejoice.

We rejoice because the Lord is near.
Ten days until Christmas.
Ten days until the Lord comes with power to save his people.

John the Baptist languishes in the darkness of his prison cell and though he cannot see the works of Christ, he hears about them:

The blind see. The deaf hear.  The lame leap.  The dead rise.  The poor have the good news preached to them.

Though we languish in the darkness of our hearts, we rejoice because of what Christ is doing…

A young man who has been blinded and paralyzed by his sin finally begins to see and is set free in the Sacrament of Reconciliation…

He had been deaf to the cries of those around him, cries like the widow next door, but now he hears. Now he hears, even in the early morning hours, and he moves, he rises, and sets to work setting her free.

And the good news is preached to her. God is near.  God loves her.  He has not forgotten about her.  He comes to her in the form of a young man whose heart has been set free, free to love with the love of Christ.

Brothers and sisters,
when you are tired,
when the outlook is bleak and you are tempted to give up,
when all hope seems lost and when the darkness is too great…
when you feel like you can’t take another step…

Wait. Wait just a little longer.
Watch. Watch with your eyes peeled for the coming of the Lord.
Remember. Remember that Jesus comes in the darkness of night.

It was in the fourth watch of the night,
between the hours of three and six AM,
when the disciples were losing hope in the storm.
It was then that Jesus came to them walking on the water.
In the darkest hour of the night, the Light of the world appeared out of nowhere, climbed into their boat, and calmed the sea.

Jesus comes in the darkness of night.

When it is the darkest,
it is then that
The dawn from on high shall break upon us
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.[i] 

It is today, on Gaudete Sunday,
when the white light of Christmas
pierces the dark violet of Advent,
transforming it into the shade of rose,
the color of a flower which brings the promise of summer,
a reminder that it is in the darkness of night
when the first streaks of dawn appear and the Morning Star rises in our hearts.[ii]

It was in the dark of night when a star, a single star,
could be seen in the distance,
shining over a simple stable in the hill country of an obscure town called Bethlehem…

It was in the dark of night when Christ was born.

Gaudete.

Rejoice, for even now, Joseph and Mary are making their way to Bethlehem for the census.

It may be dark, but the darkest hour is just before the dawn.


[i] Canticle of Zechariah.  Luke 1:78-79.

[ii] 2 Peter 1:19 (see Exultet, sung at the Easter Vigil)

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