Dec. 4, 2016: 2nd Sunday of Advent A
Click to hear Audio Homily
The other day I looked at the ornaments hanging on the Christmas Giving Trees in our churches. Written on the ornaments was the age and gender of a child and the size of clothing and shoes. Each ornament represented a child who is waiting or perhaps wondering about what gifts he or she would get this Christmas. I thought about parishioners wandering through a clothing store, purchasing shirts or pants wondering if the child would like the clothes. As she wraps the gifts, she knows that she will not see the smile or the surprise on the child’s face as he opens the gifts. Yet after she places the gift under the Giving Tree, she waits and hopes.
A spiritual writer wrote that waiting is essential to the spiritual life. However, waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting -- It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present that for which we are waiting. We wait during Advent for the birth of Jesus. We wait after Easter for the coming of the Spirit, and after the ascension of Jesus we wait for his coming again in glory. We are always waiting, but it is a waiting in the conviction that we have already seen God’s footsteps. Waiting for God is an active, alert – joyful – waiting.
Do you consider yourself a patient person who is able to wait joyfully? Or are you like some of the folks who honk impatiently the moment the signal light changes. On one hand, we know that there is a desire in us to please God, to trust Him and know that what He has in store for us is far greater that what we could conceive for ourselves. On the other hand, we also feel this restless desire--I want God to wait on me. I want Him to answer me on my terms, my timeline, and in line with my desires.
This is why John the Baptist’s cry in the desert is so pertinent to us. “Repent!” As we struggle under duplicity of mixed desires--desire to please God overshadowed by desire to please ourselves--John shouts out God’s liberating word in the desert, “Repent!”. John the Baptist made it clear that preparation for the coming of the Messiah demanded conversion of heart and transformation, a change of direction. The reorientation would require the person to turn away from sin and turn towards Christ. The gospel thus proposes three actions in order to turn to this new direction: Acknowledge our sins, do not presume our relationship with God, and bear fruit that show repentance and conversion.
Acknowledging our sinfulness is easier said than done; our reluctance to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation indicates that it’s not easy to bare our soul and own up to our responsibility for sins we have committed. Spiritual complacency comes from our presumption that our baptism and merely attending church have entitled us to salvation. Yet our spiritual life must be much more than that. Our relationship with God has to be nurtured just as our relationship with our spouse must be nurtured each and every day after the wedding day. We cannot expect to turn our lives around and deepen our relationship with God unless we take an active role through prayer and works of charity. Through pondering God’s words and receiving His Sacraments, we grow in love and recognize Christ in one whom we consider as a stranger and work to bring Christ to all.
As we wait during this Advent Season for the coming of Christ Child, we look for opportunities to welcome Our Lord. Perhaps Our Lord is inviting us to welcome him who comes disguised as a little child or an elderly homebound person whose name is hung on the Christmas Giving Tree. Perhaps Our Lord is inviting us to recognize him in the people suffering from the recent flood or the fires in Tennessee. Or perhaps, Our Lord is inviting us to turn around our life direction by going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Next week, December 12-14 (Mon-Wed), we will have the opportunity to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Penance Services held in Vacherie, Donaldsonville, and Plattenville. Just as John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord, we too are called to prepare our hearts and minds to receive the gift of the Christ Child and proclaim Him to the world in which we live.