Homily for December 9

Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent
Scriptures for today's Mass


If St. Luke were writing today instead of  some 2,000 year ago,
he might have begun this way:
In the second year of the presidency of Donald Trump;
when John Roberts was chief justice of the Supreme Court;
when Charlie Baker was the governor of Massachusetts;
during the pontificate of Pope Francis;
when Sean O’Malley was Archbishop of Boston;
and Austin Fleming was still the Catholic pastor in Concord:          
the Word of God came to some guy named John,
an unemployed televangelist,
who was often found preaching
on Boston Common, near Park Street Station.

• And if indeed that were the case,
I suspect that most of us, myself included,
would have dismissed John
as a homeless man in need of social services,
someone whose message was far too simplistic and extremist
to be deserving of any thinking person’s attention.

• It’s often a revealing and instructive effort
to try to see ourselves in the scriptures
and wonder how we might have reacted and responded
had we been there.

• Of course, 2000 years ago, John the Baptist did have some followers:
people who believed in his message;
who acknowledged their sins and asked to be forgiven;
who were truly looking for and waiting for Jesus to come.

• But they would have been a minority and my educated guess is
that most of us would have been in the majority
who paid John’s message little attention,
going about our daily lives, business as usual.

•John was a prophet and prophets are often treated and dismissed
in just this fashion.
Why is that so?  Why don’t we pay attention to prophets?
What about their message fails to engage us
- or even turns us away?
Well, let’s look at John’s message.

• He came preaching “a baptism of repentance
for the forgiveness of sins.”
So, at the heart of John’s message is a call for us who hear him
to take some serious personal inventory and ‘fess up:
that our lives aren’t perfect, that we fail - even often;
that we often lack the integrity we’d like to think we have:
that our success rate in choosing and doing
what’s right, just, fair, wise, generous and loving
is in reality, sadly, often much lower
than what we imagine or hope it to be.

• Who wants to listen to this? 
Who wants to hear what the prophet has to say?
Who wants to do what the prophet summons us do to?
Who wants to follow where the prophet is clearly leading us?

• It’s no wonder, then,
that the prophet often sounds like someone
 “crying out in the desert” or preaching on Boston Common,
where the throngs rush by,
hurrying on to more important business.

• The rest of John’s prophetic message is equally discomforting.
“Prepare the way of the Lord!”
In other words:
Make more room for God in our lives!
Do some interior house cleaning,
get rid of the junk cluttering your mind and heart
and make more room for God.
Take a long, hard look and see
all the things in your lives that lead you closer to God
and all the things in your lives
that distance you from God, that keep you away from God,
that come between you and God,
the things that don’t at all enhance but instead,
definitely inhibit your relationship with God.

• To whatever extent the prophet calls us out
and catches us up short;
- if the prophet’s word shines a light
on our crooked, short cut ways
that need to be straightened and strengthened;
- in whatever ways the prophet’s message exposes the gaps,
the potholes, the veritable valleys of infidelity
that need to be filled in and leveled;
- in whatever ways the prophet calls us to make smooth,
to buff away the rough edges on our lives:
- to these extents might we find ourselves resisting,
even rejecting the prophet’s message.

• Well!  This isn’t a very Christmassy message at all, is it!
That’s because before Christmas, there comes Advent,
before the feast, come the preparations,
before Jesus comes John, before mercy comes repentance.

• And it would serve us all well to heed the prophet’s words
especially because we so easily run the risk of being duped.
We run the risk of being duped into believing:
that Advent is about decorating our houses;
that Christmas is about buying and giving,
]receiving and returning gifts we don’t really need;
and that once this harried, hurried season is over,
we can return to business as usual,
as if a prophet never spoke to us,
as if God’s word never became flesh,
as if the nativity of Jesus was just one more birthday
to cross off on the calendar of our lives.

• Still not very Chrismassy is it?
Well, when you strip away all the tinsel and glitter,
all the wrapping paper, ribbons and bows,
all the decorations and the boughs of holly fa-la-la-la-la,
when you look underneath and behind all of that
you find that Christmas is mostly about us being redeemed,
it’s about our being saved
from precisely those very things about us
we wouldn’t want others to find under the tree
on Christmas morning.

• I know - it’s still doesn’t sound like a Christmas message!
Let’s try this, then.
Advent prepares us for Christmas,
for the coming of the who will judge us,
but he comes as a newborn infant,
inviting us to cradle his merciful love in our arms;
he comes as the Prince of Peace,
inviting us to be reconciled with God and with one another;
he comes as One like us
so that we might recognize in him divine love
seeking to find a home in our hearts;
he comes with tidings of great joy
because his only desire is for us all to be one
in a peace that has no end.
• In this crazy world of ours,
Advent and Christmas and the Jesus they promise and bring
are our only hope.
In the midst of terrorism, war, mistrust and enmity,
Advent and Christmas and the Jesus they promise and bring
stand as our only answer to humanity’s fallen nature.
In the nooks and crannies of our own hearts,
amidst the broken pieces of relationships we’ve shattered,
Advent and Christmas and the Jesus they promise and bring
are the only path to our healing,
our wholeness and our integrity.

In the aching of our deepest disappointments,
longings and losses,
the Jesus of Advent and Christmas
are the only path to our consolation, our serenity,
our fulfillment and our peace.

The Lord who comes to judge us, comes as an infant,
inviting us to hold him close.
The Lord who brings us mercy through the sacrifice of the Cross,
invites us to his table where he shares himself again and again
in the Bread and Cup of the Eucharist.

May the season of Advent and the feast of Christmas
and the Jesus they promise and bring us
open our hearts to prepare the way for him to come
and to welcome him with open arms when he arrives.


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