Homily for 2nd Sunday of Advent
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By Fr. Robert J. Carr
©Catholic Online 2004
HOMILY FOR 2ND SUNDAY IN ADVENT YEAR A
If I were to sum up this gospel reading in one word, it would be passion. We need to look at the scene of John the Baptist confronting the Pharisees. Notice how angry he gets at their arrival. It is not just he disagrees with them, their presence is virtually sickening to him. The reason why is not stated, but, we can assume some reasons.
John, a man passionate about his love for God and passionate about his desire that others know Him, is most likely sickened by the way the Pharisees and the leaders of the Church cheapen and water down the powerful grace of God. They end up keeping for their own glorification that power and grace God has given to them in the form of status and ecclesial power. Meanwhile, the people they were called to serve are left hungry.
The Jewish community becomes like sheep without a shepherd and the great power of the work of God becomes a lesson in Ho Hum Mediocrity. When the people John deems responsible for this mess arrive for his baptism, it is then that he lets out all his fury against him. "Show me that you intend to repent."
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He believes in a sense they are again using God's grace for their own glorfication.
PROVE TO THE WORLD THAT YOU BELIEVE
His demand must be made to us as well. Prove to the world that you believe, not only by repenting but also by believing in the gospel. Be passionate about your faith and in so doing you will your faith in a way that not only changes your life, but your world around you.
Sometime ago, I told one of the leaders of one of those groups that want to "Change the Church" that I intended to be their worst enemy. Believe it or not, I did not say that as one who seeks their total destruction. I said that as a Drill Instructor would say to his recruit. The drill instructor makes himself the worst enemy to the recruit because through this process the recruit is molded into a powerful machine for security and change. It has been this way for millenia.
ARE WE LIKE SHEEP WITHOUT A SHEPHERD?
These "Change the Church" groups are people like sheep without a shepherd. They think they know where they are going, and that only deepens their confusion. Yet, they are more symptomatic of a Church filled with people who are equally lost. We hear of "Catholic" Colleges that remove crucifixes so that they can gain government funding. We hear of families that dismiss the idea of going to mass forgetting that it is at mass we encounter God himself. We even hear of priests who waste their vocation by enjoying this life and not preparing for the one to come. Finally, too often we hear the complaint that mass is boring.
All of this together water downs the community. It leaves the entire community self focused and makes the divine to be an amorphous God who loves us and is the definition of permissiveness.
DIVINE WISDOM VERSUS HUMAN WISDOM
The foundation of our call to repentance is drawn from the Psalmist who teaches that faith is the wisdom of the simple. We get our wisdom from God. Those who reject us get their wisdom from themselves. Our wisdom is from God. Theirs is human. I will listen to God. Our situation is kind of like one that happened 500 years ago. People claimed that there was nothing beyond the horizon. The world was flat. Others argued that the human perception was wrong, that in fact the world was round. We, who use Divine Wisdom, are the modern equivalent of the people screaming to people to understand that the world is round, while others basing their ideas only on human perception are the one's showing us the horizon and saying, "Don't you see, the world is flat."
We need to understand that Divine Wisdom opens our minds to truths beyond the comprehension of human wisdom. This is why John angrily protested those who, given the gift of Divine wisdom, compromised themselves and instead embraced just the human.
WHAT WOULD JOHN SAY?
Imagine what John would say if he came to this situation here today in our US Catholic community. Would he not say the same thing from east coast to west coast? He would call us to repent of our mediocrity, to get down on our knees and ask God to set our hearts on fire. He would lead us to the sacraments and call us to build great devotions in our churches. He would also call us to convert the lukewarm, and hand over to the Just God the hidden cold members, the ones working actually to undermine the gospel of Christ. He would say to us in his passionate voice "Be on fire for Christ." He may even call us to radicalize our schools. Be alive in Christ, turn from your mediocrity and never return to it again." Notice something else, he would be calling all of us to do that, from top to bottom. However, his focus would not be on the upper levels, but on the lower levels of the Church. Catholicism is as much a bottom up organization as much as it is hierarchical.
DON'T CHANGE THE DECKCHAIRS ON TOP BUILD UP THE VESSEL AT THE BOTTOM
This brings me back to "Change the Church" groups. The "Change the Church" groups are a reaction of people saying that do not want to pay, pray and obey, which again has never been church teaching in the first place. These groups make that response administratively. There is nothing accomplished in changing the administration. Change the adminstration and forget the devotional life of the Church as has been handed down for centuries and you are literally doing an ecclesial form of moving around the deckchairs on the Titanic. The real life of the Church comes from its inspired devotional life and that is the role of every Catholic. We are all called to be alive in Christ and bring that life to our family, our community and to our world. Then, we are converted to the living God, when we experience the Joy of the Holy Spirit, then change the administration because at that point, like John, you will have the passion and the correct vision to do it. Ghandi said "If Christians lived their religion there would not be a hindu in India." Americanize that and realize "If Christians lived their religion there would not be a gang member in the United States."
John would point out our idolatries, including our greatest idolatry, the worship of the educated over the wise. You know I am amazed at how many parents work three jobs to send a child to a Catholic school and then complain to me after graduation that the child has no interest in Church.
As we hear John's words to us today. We need to ask the question what would he say personally to each one of us? "Come receive the baptism of repentance." or "Show me you truly have come here to repent and to hear the good news."
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Fr. Robert J. Carr - Editor, 617 542-5682
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