ADVENT HOMILY, November 29, 2015 as inaugurate a mission/ retreat at Saint Paschal Baylon Parish, Cleveland, OH
Gospel of Luke 21: 25-28;34-36
Read all of today’s Scriptures at http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/112915.cfm
You remember Chicken Little? An acorn falls on the poor chick’s head. He’s so hurt, he can only relate to how he feels:. Pain and fear. Without investigating further, without take a step back for a broader look, he feels as if the sky is falling. That becomes his message. A goose, a duck and some turkey or other, hear the words, react in fear and form a parade announcing catastrophe. At last a Fox appears, takes an objective stance, sees the bigger picture and takes the initiative to gobble them all up. Happy Thanksgiving!
Today’s Gospel may also fill us with fear but we must step back and move beyond scary language and see the bigger picture. If we come to Church regularly or engage in any serious bible study we know that Jesus is using a form of speech and imagery popular in his time: Apocalyptic Discourse. Apocalyptic images go beyond time and place with a message for the end of time which, ironically, pertains to the past as well as the future and remarkably to the present in which it is presented. Regarding the past, Jesus refers to persecution of his own people, the Jewish people, and other peoples in his past—All have suffered! And, in regard to his own life, he acknowledges the violence building against him will lead him to his Cross. Furthermore, he senses that this violence will give way to the persecution of the early Church. All of this feels like the end of the world. But for all this, Jesus trusts in God’s promise to literally send Christ back to us to address the world’s chaos at the end of time building on the Jewish belief that in the end, God will make all things right.
So you see, Jesus’ message encompasses all times and places. And so we may apply it to OUR times, to the tragedies present in today’s news: terrorists killing their fellow Muslims, Christians, Jews, Parisians and others; Americans shooting Americans in Chicago, Denver, Colorado Springs and Saint Louis And add to that the threats global warming, divisive politics and economic theories. In short, there’s Fear and trepidation in every Age.
So what’s the now and forever message for us today? It’s this: Amidst the ever-present battle of good against evil, Jesus comes Down to Earth to be with Us. As he arrived in a manger, he will come down to earth again at the end of all things. Meanwhile he comes to us everyday with this message: Do not Be Afraid I Am With You; Stand erect – Your Redemption is at Hand! This is a Gospel that inspires courage! Jesus wants us to be a hearty people. First, we must acknowledge that if we are to truly receive Jesus, we must follow his pattern, his sense of direction. We have to come down to earth, too. Amidst conflicts in news, even at work, at home: we must acknowledge our complete dependence on God for the air we breathe and the water we drink.
To keep a “down to earth” mindset, we must throw out all judgments, discard our aesthetics–what we like and dislike, who we like and dislike. We must acknowledge our common humanity. Only then can we abandon our fears and participate in God’s will. For in and through our COMMON HUMANITY ( for common humanity is what Jesus took upon himself) will we accept the truth that battle between good and evil exists in all of us. All of us. Indeed, Jesus comes down to earth for ALL. He shows no partiality. He POURS OUT his spirit to be part of the world’s solutions instead of adding to the chaos and insanity. With Christ’s help we can be ALERT for the signs of good in whoever and wherever we see it in the clouds, on the earth, in a human face. Because in God’s eyes, no one is better than anyone, no one lesser. God cares NOT for our achievements or our failures, God simply cares; God wills the good IN ALL, FOR ALL. Better keep humble, stay down to earth or we’ll miss the grace offered through that tremendous truth.
Remember Christ comes to us all the time, wherever we are, in whatever frame of mind-whatever we’re thinking or feeling today, he arrives in this WORD, in all the Sacraments AND ONE ANOTHER. Never forget the last part of this trinity! We are all in this together!
This Advent we must prepare for Christ at Christmas mindful of Christ today, tomorrow and the next day. Christmas may be an extravagant celebration but at it’s heart it is about nothing more than humility: God comes down to earth as vulnerable infant in stable poverty to remind us of our vulnerability, our need for God and what we have in common with every person on the face of the earth: life itself. Thus through Christmas, every human life is affirmed. You know this, I know this, yet the extravagance of holidays and holiday preparations can wreak havoc in our souls and create an almost apocalyptic battle within us. Advent invites to a broader outlook, a down to earth peace if we let it in.
Throw out all your expectations of what Christmas should be, could be. Get real, get down to earth. Recognize the battle of good and evil is in us and everyone. Apply Jesus’ Gospel technique of humility through active listening and caring: not judgement but understanding, not retribution but mercy—mercy with accountability but always with mercy; not condemnation but a willingness to work through the internal struggles in all of us. As the Body of Christ, we shall, we can, we must work on this reality together. For more than any holiday party or Christmas present, isn’t it better that people feel accepted and cared for? Of course it is. And you know and I know Christmas is about God’s care for us.
So this week, in this time, I invite you to our Advent Mission. Take a step back and enjoy a wider look at the Advent/ Christmas stories of Luke and Matthew. Attend to the feelings they evoke within you and others! We all know there is a deeper meaning beneath the wreaths and mistletoe-toe and our mission will give you the opportunity to savor what we believe. Plus, on the third day, at the third session, I’ll offer you concrete tools to help you make your holidays holy by helping everyone at your table to feel accepted, loved and cared for. Isn’t that what everybody wants?
I hope you’ll join me. If you were with me last Spring, you know what my ministries can offer. If not, give me a try now. As a Paulist priest, storyteller and actor, I’ll share my talents to help you attend to yours! A few hours investment of your time this week can make a difference for an entire season and beyond. It’s a gift you can give yourself that will be a gift to others, I promise you that. Mission Times and details are in the bulletin.
But whether you can attend or not, we are here together now, let’s keep ourselves in this present moment, for that is what we have. Allow your thought and feelings regarding what you’ve heard to seek Christ’s arrival in today’s Eucharist. Through it, may you experience God’s Care for you and those around you. For indeed, there is something falling from the sky this Advent. It’s GRACE.
Fabulous read on this first Sunday of Advent. Wish I was there for your retreat. Always wonderful