AIDS AND REJOICING?

5 December 2003 ADVENT (C) Third Sunday››››› Phil. 4: 4-7

 

St. PatrickŪs parish is in Kowloon, Hong Kong.There are four weekend Masses including a childrenŪs Mass at 10:45, Sunday.This is the parish where I was formerly pastor. [email protected].Cf. also Social Concerns Education: www.acpp.org --›› Fr. Gene Thalman M.M.]

 

››››››››››› The theme today is rejoicing. This is a difficult subject to preach on.

 

››››››››››› Last week on the radio, I heard this account.›››› In the mid 1990Ūs the communist party authorities in Henan Province encouraged poor farmers to sell their blood.Mobile collection units toured rural villages.Millions of villagers took up the call. But the blood collectors ignored the most basic standards of hygiene and perhaps 500,000 people in Henan Province have been infected with the AIDS virus.

 

››››››››››› Recently a journalist sneaked into one of the villages in the far northeast corner of Henan Province.Shuang Miao Village has a population of 3,000 and at least 600 are already HIV-positive. In this village 150 people have already died.The fields around the village are dotted with fresh grave mounds.

 

››››››››››› The journalist went into one of the cottages. He reports that in the corner was an emaciated man lying on a rickety bed.He had a shallow rasping cough.Beside the bed stood a woman and two small children.Between sobs the smaller, a little girl, called to her father.He is crying too.žBe good, childrenÓ he whispers, žlearn your lessons well.ÓHe knows that death is now very near.Standing at his bedside his wifeŪs anguish is mixed with fear.She has HIV, too! She knows it will not be long before she also will die on this bed.ÓThe two children will then be orphans as are millions of other orphaned children in the world.By 2010, scientists predict that they will be 20 million orphans in Africa alone.

 

››››››››››› There is so much to be miserable about these days. December 1st was World AIDS Day. 40 million people in the world have AIDS.In China, official Chinese figures report that 840,000 are HIV-Positive.But there could be many more.

 

The theme today is rejoicing. I find it difficult to promote žrejoicingÓ when I think about forty million people with AIDS plus the twenty million orphans as well as the victims of poverty, wars, hunger, disease. It seems a cruel joke to stand in this pulpit and advocate: žRejoice in the Lord always! I say it again Rejoice!Ó

 

GODŪS WORD: Philippians 4: 4-7. (NAB)

 

››››››››››› Yet that is just what Paul tells the Philippians and we at St. PatrickŪs Church this morning to do: žRejoice.Ó

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››››››››››› When Paul wrote todayŪs text, he wasnŪt sitting in a lush sauna bath drinking coca cola and munching on potato chips.He was a Roman prisoner.We can presume that a Roman prison didnŪt have tablecloths and linen napkins. Nor were the staff friendly to Jews. Also these prisons must have been boring.No TV.No chaplains or social workers.No basketball.If anyone had occasion to be žmiserable in the LordÓ, it should have been Paul.So when Paul tells his favorite Christian community žRejoice!ÓHe had experienced huge dosages of all kinds of suffering. He had the credentials to speak of žrejoicingÓ and žsufferingÓ from experience. He was žwalking the walk.Ū›› He was not standing in a shiny pulpit žsquawking the squawkÓ [as I am doing this morning].

 

››››››››››› 2 Cor: 11: 23-28.About five years earlier Paul had written to the Corinthian Christians and he mentions that he is no stranger to bad patches.

 

ž(23) ÷with many more labors and imprisonments, with far worse beatings and frequent brushes with death. (24) Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes less one; (25) three times I was beaten with rods; I was stoned once, shipwrecked three times; I passes a day and a night on the sea. (26) I traveled continually, endangered by floods, robbers, my own people, the Gentiles; imperiled in the city, in the desert, at sea, by false brothers;(27) enduring labor, hardship, many sleepless nights; in hunger and thirst and frequent fastings, in cold and nakedness. (28) Leaving other sufferings unmentioned, there is the daily tension pressing on me, my anxiety for all the churches.Ó

 

››››››››››› Paul was so busy suffering that you wonder what he did for fun.

žRejoice in the Lord always! I say it again. Rejoice!Ó (4)

 

žEveryone should see how unselfish you are.Ó (5)

 

First, Paul tells us that unselfish people do the best kind of žrejoicing.Ó›› I think you all have experiences of selfish people. More often than not, they donŪt smile much. At the same time we like to be around unselfish people.They make us feel good and make us happy about living.They do!

 

žThe Lord is near.Ó (5)

 

When we are facing deep trouble, we may žfeelÓ that the Lord is far away and couldnŪt care less what we are going through.But in the midst of our miserable world, we believe that the Lord is near and suffering with every AIDS victim, every child sold into prostitution and with every abandoned orphan.But this takes a great deal of žbelievingÓ that the žLord is near.Ó

 

››››››››››› žDismiss all anxiety from your minds.Ó (6)

 

When we are anxious about very serious thingsůat least things that we think are serious and scaryůthere is no way we can control how we feel by saying:žStop worrying, you cowardly and sniveling emotions!Ó[At least it never works for me.] But once again through our Faith in Jesus, deep down, we know that some day we will have the last laugh.

 

žPresent your needs to God in every form of prayer (6)

 

We repeat over and over again: ž(Luke 11:13) If you, with all your sins, know how to give your children good things, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.Ó

 

÷and in petitions full of gratitude.Ó (6)

 

People who are grateful for the gifts they receive always find something in which to rejoice. I think of Anna.I first met her in 1962.She was twenty. We went to her home to baptize her because she was invalided. The doctors had already diagnosed that she had multiple sclerosis.For the next forty years she was confined to her bed in the Cheshire Home.Yet whenever I visited her she would always smile.One day I visited her and she was exceptionally exuberant. Anna had difficult time speaking.So one of the other patients explained: žSomeone gave our center a special van with a glass roof. Anna was able to lie down in the van with the other patients and see the Christmas decorations in Central. That is what she wants to tell you.Ó

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žThen GodŪs own peace, which is beyond all understanding, will stand guard over your hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus. (7)

 

Finally Paul tells us something that he admits that he doesnŪt understand.Nor does he expect us to understand.But it is his experience, that in midst of all kinds storms and misery, we Christians and (we expect non-Christians as well) from time to time experience the very peace of God standing guard over our hearts and minds.

 

OUR RESPONSE:This week Paul invites we Christians at St. PatrickŪs community to ask ourselves:žWhat does it mean for a Christian to žrejoiceÓ in a world in which so many of our brothers and sisters, many of them small children, suffer real bad. Do PaulŪs words make any sense to these, my brothers and sisters?Ó

 

››››››››››› žAre St. PaulŪs žrejoicingÓ ideas nonsense in todayŪs world? How can we take St. PaulŪs advice seriously in 2003?Does ŽrejoicingŪ make the least bit of sense to people like the mother dying of AIDS or to her two children who soon will become orphans?Ó

 

››››››››››› During this third week of Advent, I would suggest that each of us, individually, within our family, or in our parish societies, spend five minutes each day to reflect on these four verses of PaulŪs letter to the Philippians.

 

How many of us will try to spend five minutes each day to think about this žrejoicingÓ problem?If you agree to do this, please stand up and pray the Creed.Next Sunday, we will be interested in hearing what you have discovered.

 

FINALEWhat is one word that you want to remember this coming week. IŪll give you a hint it starts with the letter žRÓ.

 

 

HOMILETIC NOTES AND STUFF

5 December 2003 ADVENT (C) Third Sunday››››› Phil. 4: 4-7

ONE WORD:Rejoice

 

TWO WORDS: Miserable Rejoicing

 

THEME:Paul describes how Christians continue to rejoice in a miserable and often terrifying world.

 

TEXT:Philippians 4: 4-7: žRejoice in the Lord always! I say it again. Rejoice!Ó

 

DESIRED RESULT:Father, all week long I kept thinking that I could be a little oasis of žrejoicingÓ for some folks I know who donŪt seem to have much to rejoice about.I wrote a newsy letter to a friend of mine who has been sick a long time.Thank-you, Father, for the homily.Most of your sermons are boring.But occasionally you say something that makes me think.

 

 

REFERENCES:

 

In the interest of National Security, ChinaŪs communist rulers are now doing everything they can to stop the outside world from finding out.As one villager said: žThey are waiting for us to die. Once we are all dead their problem will be solved.ÓRupert Wingfield-Hayes, žChinaŪs forgotten Aids victimsÓ BBC website http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/mpapps/pagetoo÷o.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/3269269.stm (downloaded December 4, 2003).

 

žAfrica Aids orphan crisis worsensÓ BBC website http//news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/frl-1/hi/world/Africa/3239326.stm (downloaded December 4, 2003).

 

ILLUSTRATIONS

 

TIDBITS

 

1. Before beginning this homily, I called up a friend who just got

the news that her illness is terminal. She was very despondent. I tried to cheer her up by making jokes.I could have said St. PaulŪs words to her.žRejoice in the Lord always! I say it again. Rejoice!Ó (4) But I feared getting punched in the nose.

 

2.It is not always necessary that the homilist have all the answers.

In this homily, the homilist shares his/her own difficulties in understanding the Word of God and asks for help from the Christian community.

››

3.During the coming week read take the newspaper for five

minutes.Read about the suffering of so many innocent people in the world.Or perhaps there is someone whom you know to be sufferingůor perhaps you yourself are having a tough time.Think about this for a couple of minutes.

 

Then slowly read the four verses and what Paul tells us about žrejoicing.ÓDoes PaulŪs talk about žrejoicingÓ have any relevance to todayŪs world?

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4. The Word of God suffers a great deal from bad publicity.

If you are a perennial sourpuss, it might be better to leave››

people with the impression that you are an atheist!

 

5. We can also do žrejoicingÓ stuff by recognizing and praising the

›››››››››››››››››››››››› goodness we find in others.Even the most obnoxious

›››››››››››› person youknow, canŪt avoid occasionally slipping and

›››››››››››› doing something good.

6.It goes without saying that Christians just donŪt look happy or

talk happy, they do stuff to bring justice and love to peopleůeven if it gets them into sticky situations.

 

7. Another time I visited Anna. She was very happy.After some

twenty years lying in the same cot, the staff gave her an extra cot-- next to her bed. Anna was delighted with the luxury.

 

Chewing, Digesting and DOING GodŪs Word

5 December 2003 ADVENT (C) Third Sunday››››› Phil. 4: 4-7

NAME_________ Grade_____________

 

1__T/F One way to console people who are suffering grievously is to tell

›››››››› them that after they die, they will enjoy a heavenly reward. Explain

›››››››› your answer: ____________________________

 

2. Where was Paul residing when he wrote telling the Philippians to rejoice?

in p________.

 

3.List the types of people that Paul says are likely to go around

›››› žrejoicingÓ?›››› u_________,gr_______ and pr________ people.

 

4.›› What will constitute our security guard?›› GodŪs p_______.

 

5.(Optional) Relate an experience in which, contrary to all

›››› expectations, you žrejoicedÓ in a painful set of circumstances.If you

›››› have not had such an experience, interview a senior citizen for help.

 

Answers:For Priests Only.Lay People are forbidden to peek!

1. This question can be answered in a variety of ways depending upon circumstances.

2.In prison.

3.Unselfish, grateful and praying people

4.GodŪs peace.