"Like a shepherd, he feeds his flock. In his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom and leading the ewes with care."
If you're friends with me on Facebook, you know I've been trying to find a lamb all week long for this homily. And if you are not friends with me on Facebook, please friend me because I am always desperate for things like this.
I wasn't able to find a lamb. I found out two things about lamb: First of all, lamb are baby sheep; and second of all, baby sheep don't come until the springtime. So it was kind of difficult for me to find a lamb. But there are some crazy things in the Rectory. So as I searched around the Rectory, I found something in Father Martello's closet that worked out pretty good for me.
"I am the lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world." You think this was in his closet? It wasn't. It was in mine, actually. They are adorable, aren't they? And then another parishioner gave me this for the homily, too, a little cuddly lamb.
"Like a shepherd who feeds his flock and gathers the lambs in his arms, carrying them in his bosom and leading the ewes with care."
Advent. Advent is a time for us to be gentle. We hear this in the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah. "Comfort, give comfort to my people, says the Lord. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem." "Comfort, give comfort to my people and speak tenderly to Jerusalem."
So as I was desperately trying to find a lamb all week, I talked to a farmer who is a sheep farmer, and he told me that, no, it would be very difficult to find a lamb this time of year. But he also said that he never eats sheep. I said, "I love veal. It's like the best thing ever." And he goes, "Well, let me tell you why. Because when I raise the lambs, they're bottle fed." So a lot of times he will hold the lambs in his arm like this, and he will feed them a bottle. As he was telling me about this, he got choked up and teary eyed, and he said, "They're just so beautiful and just so tender."
This is how God wants to carry us during this Advent season. Like a lamb, he gathers us to his bosom.
So one of the most important dispositions that we can have during Advent is this tenderness, is this gentleness, is this comfort. And so the Prophet Isaiah says, "Speak tenderly to Jerusalem." I want you to think about that first for yourself. Are you gentle with yourself, or do you beat yourself up? When you talk to yourself or speak to yourself, do you speak tenderly to yourself? Do you comfort yourself? Do you allow God to comfort you?
And secondly is, when you look around at your family, how do you speak to them? Are you tender? Do you speak tenderly with your words? Are your words comforting? Are your actions comforting? If they're not, this could be a time to change, because Advent is ultimately a time of new year. It's a time of new life. It's a time of entering into grace.
I think about pregnant women who are bearing children right now and the tenderness that comes about that. Oftentimes, they will take care of themselves like they never have before when they have a child in the womb. They may have been a smoker all their life, and like that, they quit smoking, or they stop drinking or they eat healthy or take time to rest. They comfort that child within them. They are tender to that life within them.
The truth is, in Advent we are bearing Christ in us. God is, right now, it's like a time of pregnancy. He is being born in us. He is being created in us. So we have to be very tender and gentle with ourselves. "Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem."
There's a wonderful poem called "Desiderata," which is by Max Ehrmann. It talks about this gentleness and this tenderness. So as I read this poem, I'm going to end with this, and I just want you to think to yourself about Advent as being a time of tenderness, and how every moment your day and your life should be this kind of kindness, of gentleness, of comfort.
I think about even the craziness of the shopping, the Black Friday shopping sometimes you see on the news the people, like, mauling each other to get the gift; and think about the violence that we have in our schools, children killing each other; think about the riots that are going on. We need, above all, tenderness. We need to have tender moments in our lives. My home hope and prayer for you is sometime today or sometime this week, God is going to give you a moment of tenderness. Maybe it's even hugging your husband or wife that you haven't done in a while. Maybe it's somebody placing a baby into your lap, or maybe it's holding a pet, holding a dog or a cat or being gentle with the lamb. So here is "Desiderata."
"Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy."
"Comfort, give comfort to my people, says the Lord. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Like a shepherd, he feeds his flock and gathers the lambs to himself, carrying them in his bosom and leading the ewes with care." This season of Advent be gentle, be tender and bring comfort.