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The Third Sunday of Advent
December 11, 2022

Watch this homily!

    If you know me at all, you know that patience does not figure high among any virtues I may have. I hate to wait! I envy people who, when caught in traffic gridlock, are able to sit patiently behind the wheel, think kind thoughts and say their prayers. And I envy people who chill out and go with the flow when they pass through airport security. Not me. I have an uncanny ability to choose the fastest-moving line which invariably turns out to be the slowest. It’s no different at the supermarket or in choosing freeway lanes. And even though I try to tell myself that waiting builds character, I have yet to convince myself.

     Advent, with its invitation to slow down, was made for people like me. In today’s second reading, James gave us two fine models for slowing down, for patient waiting: the farmer and the prophet. They may seem an unlikely twosome, but both have something important in common: farmers plant their seeds and then they wait for the rain and sun to do their work; prophets plant the seed of God’s Word and then wait for grace to do its work, wait for the Word to take root, opening closed minds and softening hard hearts.

     James wrote his letter to people who were tired of waiting, people who were becoming impatient about Jesus’ return in glory. Things were dragging on and on and weren’t getting any better. If anything, they were getting worse: the righteous were suffering, the poor were getting poorer and the wealthy were prospering. Did God see this, they wondered? Did God care?  James’ only answer to them was to be patient like the farmer and the prophet. “Make your hearts firm,” he said, “the Lord is coming.”

     I wonder if James’ advice worked. I’m guessing it got mixed reviews.

     The gospel gave us John the Baptist who definitely gets mixed reviews on patience. John was patient to a point but he was certainly no poster boy for patience. He was languishing in King Herod’s prison and tired of waiting, waiting for the fulfillment of what he had preached and promised; waiting for the long-awaited Messiah to do what he was supposed to do. John’s patience was running out when he sent disciples to Jesus to ask him: “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?” We can sympathize with John, can’t we? I know I can.

     But then I need, and so do we all, to listen to Jesus’ answer. Reaching back to Isaiah’s great prophecy spoken many hundreds of years earlier, Jesus offered evidence that the prophecy was being fulfilled. In him. The blind were seeing, he said, the lame walking, lepers were being cleansed, the deaf were hearing, the dead were being raised, and the poor were having the good news preached to them. And he added: “Blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” Was that Jesus’ way of telling John to be patient? Maybe.

     Now, ‘fast forward’ to this moment. To our world, to this place, this time. If we had a chance to ask Jesus a question I wonder if it would differ much from John’s question, “Are you the one who is to come?” Our issues may be different from the Baptist’s, but our question is largely the same: how can you be the One, Lord, when so much is wrong with the world and with life in general? 

     For starters, our world is regularly convulsed by natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, volcanic eruptions), and our world is equally convulsed by disasters of our own making (wars, terrorist plots, school shootings - not to mention our reckless pillage of the environment). And our country? Our country is on life-support these days with deep political divisions, name-calling, gross dishonesty, fake news, and serious threats to our democracy. And then there are our own personal lives which are often far from serene: we struggle with addictions, battle all kinds of illnesses, work hard to make ends meet, sacrifice for our kids, care for aging parents, deal with family break-ups, mourn the loss of loved ones. The Baptist’s question is our question, too: “Are you the one who is to come or shall we look for another?”

     And the only answer we get is the one Jesus sent to John: “The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are being cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are being raised, and the poor are having the good news proclaimed to them.” That’s the answer. And while it may not satisfy, it’s no less true, because Jesus is accomplishing those things. He is. How? Through people like you and me. Through loving communities like ours. Through the sinful yet holy Church. He is working through us to reach out and raise up, to heal and welcome, to love and forgive, to care for and shelter, to bring good news to those in the shadows.

     My friends, John the Baptist is our ally, our Advent ally.  His impatient question from prison gives legitimacy to our impatience. He makes it okay for us to question and to wonder. But during these Advent days, dark yet pierced by hope, we can be grateful for the answer Jesus gave to John. Steadily, quietly, imperceptibly, against all evidence, but with a momentum that is irreversible because it is God’s momentum, the Kingdom of God is being built. And God depends on us to help build it!

Father Michael G. Ryan





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Seattle, Washington  98104
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