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The Second Sunday of Advent
December 4, 2022

Watch this homily!


    If you came looking for some comfort this morning, you’re in luck. And if you’re ready for a challenge, you won’t be disappointed. There’s enough comfort in today’s scriptures – and enough challenge – to change the world and, maybe more to the point, to change each of us.

     Isaiah is the comforter today with his blessed vision of peace. And John the Baptist is the challenger – John, the disturber of the peace.

     Isaiah raises the curtain on a scene that sounds more like something out of J. K. Rowling or J. R. R. Tolkien than Holy Writ.  With broad and beautiful strokes Isaiah paints a picture of the peaceable kingdom – God’s dream, God’s plan for the human family. It definitely seems closer to fantasy than to reality, but that is not our judgment to make. Remember: this is God’s kingdom, not ours. In God’s kingdom the poor are on top of the heap and the meek are the ones with all the power. Here, mortal enemies become friends, wolves live alongside lambs, lions graze in the pastures with cows, children play by the cobra’s den, and all God’s children live in peace, “for there shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.

     Fantasy? It seems so, doesn’t it? It’s certainly a large leap from the world as we know it. But, my friends, Advent is about making leaps. In Advent we prepare to welcome once again God’s almighty Word, our Savior, who in the midnight of a very dark world, made the huge leap from heaven to earth - becoming one of us - forever changing the very nature of reality or, perhaps I should say, forever giving reality possibilities it never had before.

     Once the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, our human nature, graced but wounded, received a whole new lease on life.  It took on new possibilities. What once seemed sheer fantasy – a peaceful world with justice for all and the human family living as one family – what once seemed sheer fantasy became a possibility, a divine possibility, as divine as the Word that became one of us.

     But, you may be saying, let’s be real. Christ came two-thousand years ago and nothing has really changed except, perhaps, for the worse, or so it seems. Even we who believe in Christ are hopelessly divided among ourselves - scandalously so - and tragically, his followers, far from being peacemakers, have actually killed untold millions of people down through the ages. In his name!

     But, my friends, we must not let human failings blur the vision or define what is real. Remember, the vision is God’s, not ours, and the power to realize it is in Christ, and Christ has become one of us and we, through Baptism, have become one with him. So, yes, human blindness, selfishness, and greed do get in the way, but no flaws or failings of ours are equal to the grace of Jesus Christ. And therein lies hope; therein lies the antidote to the powerlessness we feel and the cynicism which can close our hearts and shut our eyes to the Great Vision.

     I began by saying that Isaiah was the comforter today and John the Baptist the challenger, the disturber of the peace. Perhaps that wasn’t entirely fair. It’s true that John’s harsh, finger-pointing words, “you brood of vipers, who can save you from the wrath to come?” are as much a reproach to us as they were to the Pharisees and Sadducees who first heard them.

       But John does more than point the finger of blame.  He also points with serene confidence to the Lamb of God, the Christ – the one far greater than him, the one whose sandals he is not worthy to carry. This one, says the Baptist, is the real Baptizer because he will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. And, my friends, we have received that Baptism. We have!  It should be a fire within us and a transforming Spirit. But our baptism will not burn within us if we do not let it, and it will not change us unless we want to be changed. There are so many ways we can negate the power, the divine power, of our Baptism.

     And that brings me to a question I’d like to ask: what reality do you choose to live in? The reality of things-as-they-are-and-always-have-been? The tired-out reality of the status quo? The cyclical reality of fear and selfishness which invariably lead to hatred and violence in all their many forms?  Or do you dare to dream of – and choose - a whole new kind of world that has become possible with the coming of the Christ?

     The French writer, Georges Bernanos, in his great novel The Diary of a Country Priest, speaks eloquently to this point. “Faith,” he wrote, “is not a thing which one ‘loses,’ we merely cease to shape our lives by it.” And there is a lot of truth there. And wisdom. But hope is not the same as faith. Unlike faith, we can lose hope. We lose hope when we no longer shape our lives by faith. For faith holds onto the Great Vision, the Great Dream – God’s great dream - and embraces it no matter how fantastic it might seem, or how unreal. Faith puts no limits on the real. Faith believes in the great Advent and Christmas message that “nothing is impossible for God!”

     My friends in Christ, each year we celebrate Advent and Christmas because we need to be teased and tantalized by a vision which can seem more fantasy than reality. But we must never stop believing in that vision because, for reasons we will never understand, God believes in us and uses us to make the Great Dream come true!

Father Michael G. Ryan





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