Advent, 2nd Sunday - homily
I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that I made a five day retreat last week in New Jersey and it was excellent. The bad news, for your sake, is that it was silent. I didn’t talk to anyone for a week, and now I have some catching up to do! It was a very good week; tough, but good. I was with the Hermits of Bethlehem; it was a priest, religious brothers and sisters. They come together every morning for Mass, and then spend the rest of the day in their tiny little houses which are called hermitages. They do this in silence.
I can live this way for about a week, tops; they do it every day. I was wondering how they do it, but then thought about how sometimes, there are certain passages or lines from Scripture that we think, ‘wow, I would love to meditate on that all day’. And, that’s what the hermits do. They meditate on the Word of God all day, every day. In solitude and in silence. And, believe me, the Word comes alive. God speaks to us in silence. It was a great week, but I’m happy to be back.
But, we were roughin’ it! It wasn’t the diet of John the Baptist – locusts and wild honey – but it was close. We did have a “desert day” which was bread and water only. Yes, St. John the Baptist lived a tough life. Some would say he lived tough love. This scene from the Gospel is an example of that. He is calling out the Pharisees and Sadducees because he doesn’t see any signs of their repentance. Basically, he is calling them out for merely going through the motions of religious rituals. He is saying, ‘guys, get ready! The time is now. Christ is coming! Repent; turn away from sin and turn your hearts to God. Prepare, for the kingdom of God is at hand!’
This prompts the question for each one of us: do I only go through the motions as a Catholic Christian, or have I given my heart to Christ? This is an especially good time to ask ourselves that question as we attend many of our religious rituals during the Advent and Christmas seasons. Are there signs of my repentance, where I’m turning away from sin and turning toward Christ? If so, what are the signs?
One of the most common signs of repentance is prayer – not just formal prayer, but praying to Christ from our heart during the day. Also, good works in our parish, community, and families which are above and beyond the call of duty show that we’ve given our hearts to Christ. Living the virtues is another sign of our repentance.
Every time we go to the Eucharist or Confession, we give evidence of our repentance. We are obligated to come to Mass every Sunday, but there are other ways we can go to the Eucharist which involve a choice to be with Christ; for example, Friday night Adoration. We have Adoration every Friday night here, and during Advent, we are giving a series of reflections on the person of Christ during Adoration. We had a great night this past Friday: I gave a reflection on the titles of Christ and we had live music. There was a nice crowd here who seemed to really enjoy it. The next two Fridays we will focus on the parables and miracles of Christ.
Going to Confession is an obvious (and maybe the greatest) sign of our repentance. On December 18, we will have a Parish Penance Service. There will be visiting priests – VISITING PRIESTS! – here who will be offering the sacrament of Reconciliation. It will be a powerful way for us to turn away from sin and toward our Lord.
There are people in our lives who live tough love: St. John the Baptist, maybe our parents, teachers, clergy, friends. But, it is love. Love is wanting what’s best for the other. St. John the Baptist truly wanted what’s best for the religious leaders and others. If he didn’t care about or love them, he wouldn’t have said a word. But, he knew that it would be best for them to repent, to change their lives, and to prepare for the coming of the Lord. It is best for all of us to repent, to prepare, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!