Saturday, December 5, 2015

Prepare the Way - homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent 2015

Advent-2                    homily:  Fr. Bill Bowling                                Dec 6, 2015
Baruch 5:1-9             Psalm 126                  Phil 1:4-6,8-11                      Luke 3:1-6

In Psalm 126 we read, “When the Lord brought back the captives of Zion, we were like men dreaming.  Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with rejoicing.”

What an amazing image this offers – a road that is filled with joyful liberated captives heading home – laughing, singing, rejoicing.  This psalm recalls an amazing event in the history of Israel.  They had been conquered, invaded, and carried off into slavery by the Babylonian empire.  For 70 long years they endured.  They wept.  As the psalm also mentioned, they went away in sorrow and tears.

Then, through a miraculous turn of events, they were sent home.  It was a “new exodus” for them – an amazing work of God’s mercy for their entire people.  Filled with gratitude, they rejoiced, laughed, and sang as they went back home. 

This psalm of remembering hard times followed by God’s mercy and deliverance is an important act of faith for one who wrote this psalm.

Truth be told, during this season of Advent, we need to spend some time remembering God’s love, mercy, and works of deliverance for his people.  This Advent is an act of faith for us all.

This is the season of Advent where world leaders increasingly mention that we have entered World War III.  This is the season of Advent where we hear regularly about the increase of acts of terror. The culture of fear and death plots and plans its advances.

Once again we consider that we have entered into the great conflict between the gospel and the anti-gospel, the culture of life and the culture of death.  Ours is the appointed time to engage this struggle.  The question then, becomes obvious.  What can we do?

John the Baptist shows us the way.  The great prophet of the end of the last great advent engaged  same struggle.  He proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  He was the voice of one crying out in the desert – “prepare the way of the Lord.”  His call to all of the people must also be the call that the entire church takes up in this time.  “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

The way of the Lord is the way of mercy.  John proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  So it is for us today. 

We are on the eve of the year of Mercy.  On December 8, the great Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis will formally open the year of Mercy for the entire Church.  The entire church herself is called to walk in the mercy of Jesus and proclaim his mercy to the world.  And how shall we do that as the church in Lebanon?

In a word: repentance.  All of us are called to a new level of conversion.  In the face of growing darkness in the world, all of us must run quickly to Jesus, the great font of mercy.  All of us must name sin in our lives and to renounce it through the great sacrament of mercy, the sacrament of Penance.  In this way we get to live out the prayer of St. Paul in the 2nd reading where he wrote: “this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.”

Repentance, both at a personal level and at a communal level brings about a purified church.  And a purified church is equipped to bring the mercy of Jesus to a darkened world.  Mercy prepares the way for the coming of Christ into the world.  Jesus himself, through his church, conquers the powers of darkness and enlightens the world.

Mercy.  Oh how the world needs mercy right now.  Let us, as the church in Central Kentucky, in union with the church throughout the world, make the mercy of Jesus practical. 

Remember the corporal works of mercy?
Feed the hungry.
Give drink to the thirsty
Clothe the naked
Shelter the homeless
Visit the sick
Visit the imprisoned
Bury the dead.

Remember the spiritual works of mercy?
Counsel the doubtful
Instruct the ignorant
Admonish sinners
Comfort the afflicted
Forgive offenses
Bear wrongs patiently
Pray for the living and the dead.

Let’s do this church!  May the words of the prophet Baruch burn in our souls during this great Advent preparation for a new and definitive coming of Jesus’ mercy into our world.

Church –“take off your robe of mourning and misery – put on the splendor of glory from God forever, wrapped in the cloak of justice from God.”

Church – “stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God.”

Church – let us take up this great mission of mercy so that the words of the prophet Isaiah may be fulfilled in our midst and in our generation so that “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Church – let have firm confidence that the one who begins this good work in us will bring it to completion.

And when it is brought to completion, may the words of Psalm 126 also be found in our mouths – “the Lord has done great things for them.  The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad indeed.”