Saturday, December 6, 2014

Dec. 7, 2014: 2nd Sunday of Advent B

Click to hear Audio Homily
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving Day, I was on the road to Baton Rouge for an appointment. I waited and waited on the road leading to the Sunshine Bridge which, as you know, is under construction. Then, to my surprise, the interstate was like a parking lot. I was stuck behind cars, barely crawling along and I was wishing there was another quicker way to my destination. 

Do you ever experience your life as being stuck in place, similar to being behind congested traffic on the Interstate? Do you ever wish that you could find another straight way out of your situation and on to something better?

Imagine an entire community of people feeling like they're stuck. Such was the case of the Israelites -- they were stuck in a foreign country in exile, made to worship strange gods, forced to adopt the way of life of the foreigners, and then their children abandoned the faith practices of their fathers. They no longer had a country, temple, or political power. Then a prophet of God, announced to them good news. It was a prophecy that foresaw the return of the exiles to Jerusalem and  worshipping again the God of glory. God himself was going to take away obstacles like mountains and valleys to draw them to himself. The Lord himself would lead his people like a shepherd gathering his people into his arms and leading them with care. The prophet made a clarion call to the people, "Prepare the way of the Lord!..Make straight a highway for our God!" Although the good news was for everyone, those who heeded the call and made a change in their lives experienced the freedom and joy. When people humbled themselves by their repentance and sought baptism from John the Baptist, they experienced forgiveness. But something greater was awaiting the people as John the Baptist pointed out that the one greater than he was coming to baptize them with the Holy Spirit.

What are things in our life that make us feel stuck? The wisdom of the Church points to sin as the reason for why we feel stuck. Our sins can be broadly divided into three roots--pride, vanity, and sensuality. Pride refers to a disordered attachment to our own excellence. The proud person tends to seek meaning and fulfillment in their own achievements and conquests. Do you ever get angry when you don’t get your way or you’re not taken into account? Vanity is a disordered attachment to the approval of other people. The vain person tends to seek meaning and fulfillment in being appreciated or liked by other people. Do you at times want to be the center of attention, at times stretching the truth, or lying, or being uncharitable in your words in order to achieve this? Sensuality is a disordered attachment to comfort, ease, and pleasure. The sensual person tends to seek meaning and fulfillment in taking it easy and simply enjoying life. Do you at times find yourself complaining, excessively affected by minor discomforts?

Blessed Mother made a similar plea in Medjugorje where she said:
“My dear children, today I want to call all of you to decide for Paradise. The way is difficult for those who have not decided for God. Dear children, decide and believe that God is offering Himself to you in His fullness. You are invited and you need to answer the call of the Father, who is calling you through me.”

Recently, I viewed a Youtube clip of a flash mob that took place in a busy market place. The people in that market place were going about their business when a lone bass player began to play a familiar melody. He was then joined by a cello player, several violins, and oboes. At the climax of the music, choir members who were dispersed throughout the market began to sing a glorious chorus: 

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee,
Op’ning to the sun above.

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!

On this Second Sunday of Advent, we heed the call of John the Baptist to humble ourselves and decide to be closer to God than we have been before. This way, we will experience the joy and freedom that Our Lord longs to give us in this season. We have a great opportunity this coming week to answer the call to repentance and seek forgiveness. Our area churches will hold penance services for individual reconciliation several nights this week. During this season, we find time for so many other things such as parties, shopping, and cooking. In the time that we spend examining our conscience, Our Lord will shed his light upon the areas of our life where we need freedom and will  help us enter into the joy.