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image courtesy of IMDb

Well, I did something embarrassing over the last weekend, I’ve just got to get it off my chest and tell you what I did. The guys of the parish will be especially disappointed with me, but I watched a Hallmark movie. I made a big mistake; I watched the Hallmark movie and I liked it.  

So, the name of the movie was, the kids might know this. So, Santa, where are some kids? Santa leaves a list. Does anybody know what that list is called? What is it? Naughty and Nice list yeah, so the name of the show was Naughty or Nice. I was watching the show and the premise of the show is there’s this girl and her name is Kristy Kringle. And, Kristy Kringle because her name is so close to Kris Kringle, gets all this mail that children write to Santa and it shows up at her doorstep. So, every day when she comes home from work, she has to push her door open because there are all these letters there, and one day she gets a box. She gets a bigger package and she opens up the box and there’s a book in the box. And it’s this magical-looking book and on the front of the book, it says, Naughty or Nice.  

And, then she discovers a secret. When she starts to interact with people like her boss and different people in her life, she realizes that if she said their names over the book, the book would open up and show her all the naughty things that the person had done.  And as she is going on and on throughout the movie, she’s discovering more and more things that people have done that are naughty. And then she makes the big mistake of asking about her boyfriend, soon-to-be fiance. The book opens up to him and she sees something she can never forget, so horrible, that she decides that she’s going to break it off with him. 

And so, she’s having this difficult crisis in her life and she goes to her parents and her mother says to her, “You know honey, there are certain times in life where we only look at one side of the coin and sometimes you have to flip the coin over and look at things from the other side.”  And so, she’s pondering what that means for the situation. She takes the Naughty or Nice book that she has and flips it over and on the back of it, it says, Nice or Naughty. And when she says each person’s name and it opens up that book and all of a sudden, she sees all of the good things that those people do.  

I was working as an intern during the Seminary at a place for alcohol and drug recovery, and I’ll never forget part of what I was doing, is doing some spiritual direction and helping.  But I was able to gain access to their files, so I can look at their files.  And what I will never forget is some of these people really have done horrible things in their life, just ruined their lives and their families.  And when I opened up their files and started to read through their files about their history, about what they had experienced in life, and the sufferings they had gone through, the only thing that I could think of is, ‘I can’t believe they have turned out so good.’  

Because our histories and our pasts sometimes can be so wounded. God knows, even more than Santa, the naughty and nice of each one of us. And we hear in the gospel today, John the Baptist sends some of his disciples to go to Jesus and they ask Him, “are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?” And, Jesus says this line to them, He says, “Go and tell John what you see and what you hear.”  So, they’re supposed to go and observe what Jesus is doing and then report back to Him.  So, “Go and tell John, what you see and what you hear.”

As we come deeper into the season of Advent and move towards Christmas, I know that in our lives we have a tendency when we see people or judge people, either friends, loved ones, family, or whatever it is.  We have a tendency to keep a naughty list, right?  Like we just think about every bad thing that person has done and we tend to want to compile as much evidence as we can and support our idea that they’re a bad person. But what we don’t do is flip over the book and see the good that that person is doing. 

I want you to think about, your life right now. Are there people in your life that you’re judging and that all you’re able to see is bad and think about what a horrible person he or she is? We’re called to flip the book over and see the good. Because each and every person is created in the image and likeness of God and that means God knows that it is good there.  God knows the whole story, what that person has been through in life and we have the tendency to only see the bad.  

The same is true for our world. I know a lot of us are starting to think like with the news and the media, just thinking our world is doomed, our country is doomed, whatever. We have this feeling that all is bad.  But Jesus is saying open our eyes and see, open our ears and hear what truly is.  For those people in our lives, we have to remember, we have to know and we have to believe that there is good there.

The same thing is true with our lives and with our world; there is good there. And even our own hearts and our own selves, we beat ourselves up about some of the difficulties, our sins, our struggles that we have; there is good there.  There’s always another side to the story.  

So, Jesus invites us to see and hear the miracles that he’s working on: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. This Advent, let us open our eyes and our ears to see the good news. The good news in our world, the good news in other people, and the good news in ourselves.  Because when we only read life from the naughty list, it looks pretty bad.  But if we can flip that book over and try to read it from the nice list, all of a sudden, we can rejoice as we celebrate this Gaudete Sunday.  


  • Robert Lemmo says:

    As always Father Denk mades his messages direct and relatable. When Father Denk was at the parish I belong, there was many memorable sermons! Thank you for your service.