Saturday, December 9, 2017

HOMILY - Second Sunday Advent Year B 2017

My wife, Tracey, has been on mission the past couple of weeks to find matching camel's hair shirts for our boys to wear this Advent, she found leather belts just needs the camel’s hair suit, so if you know where to find them, see me after mass. My family’s Advent fast of locusts and wild honey lasted about a half of a meal before there was a major revolt, so if anyone needs 40 pounds of freezed-dried locusts, please see me after mass. You know this but worth repeating… the season of Advent is a time for us to prepare for three things. First, we prepare to celebrate the anniversary of that historical event of Jesus' birth - God entering into our humanity. I am grateful for Father John’s periodic reminder throughout the year of this truth that we are an incarnation Church and people. Second, during Advent we also celebrate God entering into our lives daily through his grace, through his word in sacred scripture, and in the sacraments especially the Eucharist. And third, Advent is also a time to prepare for Jesus his second coming when, as today’s second reading reminds us, the heavens will be dissolved in flames and the elements melted by fire. But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Every year, this year being no exception, I recommit to doing a better job of preparing for these three truths of our faith. And I have to admit that this year I'm feeling a little better in my efforts. That's not to say that my life is any less stressful or easier than in the past - arguably just the opposite. But several things are different this year. For one, I have made a much greater, more consistent and conscious effort to place all my trust in God – trusting that he has a plan for me, for my family, for this parish, our country and our world. I can put my trust a God who can move mountains, fill-in valleys, as the prophet Isaiah proclaims in the first reading, and I can certainly put my trust in a God who has the power to create life, the power to enter in to our humanity, and the power to do so many more incredible things. I am also finding great encouragement from a book that is found at the doors of the church: Joy to the World by Scott Hahn. Admittedly, I am just about halfway through the book. However, the first several chapters have been quite inspiring to me as I've begun this advent season. One of the great insights or at least reminders for me is the truth that, as the author writes: The family is the key to Christmas. The family is the key to Christianity. I am blessed with a great family, and being a deacon has helped me be a better father and husband, I appreciate this point in the book. He goes on to quote: Pope Saint John Paul II who noted that “every good thing-history, humanity, salvation-passes by way of the family.” The author goes on to state that “the truth of Christmas begins with the family. The events turned historically on the decisions of a husband and a father, a wife and a mother.” AND, the author notes: “we know these events only because that mother pondered them in her heart and chose to share them with her son’s disciples.” Today we read not from one of the Infancy Narratives of Matthew’s or Luke’s Gospels that record these events, but from the Gospel of Mark. We will hear much from this Mark’s Gospel over the next several months as we read his Gospel during this lectionary year. But it is interesting that Mark, for many reasons as I hope to reflect on with you in the future, jumps over the infancy narrative's and gets us right into the public ministry of Jesus - 30 years later. I love that we have this Gospel reading today during the Advent Season. Specifically it is John the Baptist’s emphasis not only on repentance but on sharing the good news with others that should be our response to the events that we celebrate at Christmas and that should bring us purpose and meaning, as well as joy and peace. See, the purpose of Advent is to prepare our hearts and minds to enter more deeply into this love relationship God has for us and then to share this good news with others, just as Mary did with her Son’s disciples and just as John the Baptist did. We can accomplish by FIRST following the instruction in today’s second reading, which urges us to put aside our anxiety and worry and concern and be at peace, to conduct ourselves in holiness and devotion, filled with patience. Some may like John’s the Baptists more blunt proclamation of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Either way, we are called first to an interior conversion – preparing our own heart and mind to be deeper in relationship with God. SECOND, we must move beyond self to others by sharing with others God’s great love, power and the joy and peace that comes from being in relationship with Him. And we can do this most powerfully and wonderfully within the family God has given us. It may not be perfect and may not be the people we would choose to be with all of the time, but in God’s wisdom, He has brought us together as a family - a family by blood and by faith - and so we are presented with the opportunity to help each other to grow in our relationship with Christ. And so this Advent, I invite you to focus on how internally you are preparing for Christ, AND also externally how you are sharing with others, especially family, this good news of Christ entering our humanity, present with us now, and who will come again. Just as we would share a new job or an engagement or a new house with loved ones, why not share the greatest news of Christmas with those in our life? For me and my family, we are going to go Christmas caroling in our neighborhood. They don’t know that yet, but it checks all the boxes, right? Greater humility, family activity, and spreading the good news of Christmas. I will let you know what happens. The point is to start with self in preparing to grow deeper in love with God and then sharing the joy you WILL experience with others. I will conclude with another passage from Scott Hahn’s book. He writes: without Christ, the world was a joyless place; any place where he remains unknown and unaccepted is a joyless place. Everything has changed since Christ birth, yet everything remains to be changed, as people come to receive the child in faith. It is our challenge and opportunity to know this joy personally and to share this joy with others today, this Advent and Christmas, and everyday of our lives. May God bless us as you and your family as you go and announce this good news to others within and with your family!