Sunday, December 07, 2008

2nd Sunday of Advent - homily

Some of you may remember Fr. Tom Wells who was here at St Andrew’s for a couple of years in the 80s. He was transferred from here to my home parish, Our Lady of Lourdes in Bethesda. One of the priests he lived with was then-Father Gonzalez, now Bishop Gonzalez of Washington. The two of them got along so well – both fun guys! They had fun with each other and enjoyed each other’s company.

One time, they were at a parish party talking with a parishioner. The parishioner said to Fr Wells, “Father Wells, you preach like John the Baptist!” Fr. Wells turned to Fr Gonzalez and said with a smile, “hmmmm…John the Baptist!” He began to show some signs of boasting and gloating. Fr Gonzalez then asked the parishioner, “what about me?”, as Fr Wells laughed. The woman said, “oh, Fr Gonzalez, you preach like Jesus!” (Fr Wells went silent).

We hear about John the Baptist in today’s Gospel. We get an image that is hard for me to figure out. We hear about a man who dressed differently (he wore clothing with camel’s hair), had a different kind of diet (wild honey and grasshoppers), and spoke differently (“prepare the way of the Lord…make straight his paths). He pretty much got right in people’s faces and told them to change their lives. So, here is a different kind of guy. And yet, huge crowds from Judea and Jerusalem came to hear him. What is the attraction to John the Baptist?

People were attracted to John the Baptist for a number of reasons; I’d like to offer a few. First, he spoke the truth. We all want to hear and know the truth – in specific situations and in general. The truth is very attractive to us. Also, he challenged people. Challenging someone is a sign of love and respect. People like to be challenged; we see this especially with our youth. People knew that John the Baptist loved and respected them when they heard his challenges to change their lives. Now, on a practical level, he gave them something – baptism. We Catholics are like this too – we like to get stuff. John gave them something – the cleansing waters of baptism.

The biggest reason why John the Baptist was attractive to people is because of hope. He was a source of hope for them. Pope Benedict XVI has said that Advent is a season of hope. Hope points to something else, something greater than itself. John the Baptist pointed to something else – someone else – his whole life. He pointed to Christ. “Someone is coming after me who is greater than me”. He pointed to something else in a positive way; that was very attractive to people. I think this is the reason we listen to any prophet – they point us to something else. And that something is Christ.

When we come to the person of Christ, we come to hope itself. He is hope’s end; and yet, he points to something else. In other words, he is the kingdom of God on Earth and points to the Kingdom of God in Heaven.

We see this with the Eucharist. It is the Kingdom of God on Earth and points to the Kingdom of God in Heaven. This is true with all of the sacraments – they contain Grace and signify the Grace they contain. They give us hope and point to that hope which is Christ.

May this Eucharist fill us with hope. May it help us to be like John the Baptist and all of the prophets: sources of hope. May our lives point to something else – Jesus Christ.


At 1:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Feature Stories

Advent is the season of hope, Pope says

Vatican, Dec. 1, 2008

( – "The Vatican opened the season of Advent with a Vespers service in St. Peter's basilica on Saturday evening, November 29, with Pope Benedict XVI presiding.

The Holy Father observed in his homily that Advent is 'par excellence, the spiritual season of hope.' He encouraged the faithful to in 'that universal form of hope and expectation which is prayer' as the Christian world prepares for the celebration of the Nativity."

I guess I'm what you could call a simpleton. My brain finds a concept easier to recall when introduced or captured through a theme written in rhyme. As I read the article on the Pope's Vesper sermon, I couldn't help but question why the introductory title didn't feed in to a human trait I think we all possess; an intermittent cavalier or unfocused attitude on what it takes, in actions and thoughts, on a minute to minute, day to day basis, to be worthy of having Jesus Christ as our Savior.

As the Pope says in his December 1st Vespers service, hope and expectation, i.e. prayer is the reason for the Advent season. I know I fail, on a daily basis, in my minute to minute, day to day actions, in keeping prayer, centered on the Eucharist, as the focal point of life. This is not to say I was called to live a cloistered life in prayer. No. It means I often forget or fail to keep Christ as the focal point in my calling, in everything I do, think and say.

I captured the Pope's vespers message through: "Hope says the Pope: Advent is the season." The first word says it all, pray, every day, of every season. Perhaps, with the ease of recalling two words that rhyme, hope and Pope, I'll keep my life a little more centered, minute to minute, day to day, on the Eucharist. Perhaps then I'll be worthy of meeting our Savior, face to face, so I can personally thank Him for living and dying for us.

At 12:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For some, the time surrounding Christmas is a time of unfulfilled hope. Maybe it’s because we have unrealistic expectations, ones that include how family and friends will and/or should be at this time of year. It’s easy to get caught up in the- “you should come here,” or, “they should go there,” or “they didn’t call or even send a card.”

For others, this time of year is a lonely one. Maybe they’ve little family or little to share with others so they spend the season feeling isolated and sad. Maybe circumstances in their lives make it hard for them to hear the message of hope that Advent offers.

In thinking about St. John the Baptist, I wonder if he experienced unfulfilled hope. When he asked, “Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else?” was he experiencing doubt? Maybe not- maybe he was giving his followers the opportunity to go and see the proof for themselves, as John’s circumstances didn’t seem to point to the fact that Jesus, were he the Messiah, had even the ability to save his own messenger! Maybe that, too, was an expression of John the Baptist’s hope.

John was stuck between a rock and a hard place, imprisoned and alone a while all these great things were happening around him, and maybe he never had doubts or lost hope, but he must have felt some of what many experience this time of year- isolation, maybe even abandonment, while others appreciate the joy and hope of miracles.

For those who do experience the hope of Advent, they should make it a point to share that with others who do not. We never know what “imprisons” people at this time of year, but those who have hope should be messengers of it.


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