( Readings for the 3rd Sunday of Advent can be found here. )
- Every year, more than 9.5 million Americans in need turn to one of 1,400 charitable organizations run by the Catholic Church at minimal cost, or no cost, to those being served.
- 596 Catholic hospitals operate throughout the country, along with 544 smaller clinics and health care centers to provide medical services to thousands of people, especially the poor.
- Catholic health institutions continue to provide quality health care for the elderly and the seriously disabled through its network of residential homes and facilities.
- The Catholic Church provides more medical, spiritual and temporal care to more AIDS patients world wide than any other institution in the world. Currently, there are about 1,454 specialized homes for this ministry in the United States alone.
- Catholic charities all over America are right now feeding millions of people. To meet such a demand, the Church runs more than 600,000 soup kitchens and stocks more than 2 million food banks and pantries.
- As for the homeless, the Church provides temporary shelter for children and families, battered women, senior citizens and others. At present, about 110,858 people depend on these shelters for help. The Church’s commitment to the poor also includes social programs to promote human development.
- Catholic counselors and counseling agencies help close to 700,000 families, individuals and groups deal with troubled relationships, emotional distress and mental illness.
- Catholic housing services help around 67,000 homeless find and keep a permanent place to live.
- Catholic neighborhood-support services sponsor youth centers, summer camps, sports programs and senior citizens centers; at present, nearly 300,000 people are enrolled in these services.
So many good things that Christ does and that the Church does with His grace and yet people slam them both all the time. They will talk about Galileo and the Spanish Inquisition and parish and school closings and the priest pedophile crisis. All of that is true and people today have doubts about Christ and doubts about the Church.
Yet, look at the evidence. This is an institution that consistently produces goodness and saints. This is a savior who constantly pours out hope and grace.
“Blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”
John the Baptist had doubts. He had doubts about the Jewish leaders. He had doubts about his own cousin even!
WE have doubts. But doubts are not the problem; doubts are a CALL.
Doubts are a challenge from Jesus Christ himself – who says to you, “Go out and look. Investigate. See what the entire really is. Look to find me:
. in the midst of terrible situations,
- in the midst of the doubt.
I’m not going to solve your problems. I’m not going to release you from your doubt. I need you right in the middle of that stuff BECAUSE that’s where my people are. I need you RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THAT STUFF WITH THEM.
- And I will be there right in the middle with of you.
- And, through the Eucharist. I will be there right in the middle of you.
Why would The Lord have you do this? To go out get some more grace and then to go out and GIVE more grace.
- Look at John the Baptist: The times are beating him up; the religious leaders thought he was nuts; he’s imprisoned by one of the craziest, ruthless psychopaths of his time. Think he didn’t have doubts?
- And yet he’s doing his thing. WHY? Because he was “The broadcaster of his times.” He was out there talking about “Good News.” He was out there in the midst of the messiness “giving grace.”
Does the church have problems? Sure the church has problems. Does this parish have issues? Of course this Parish has issues. Do you have doubts? Naturally you have doubts. What does the Scripture tell us about that today? That in the midst of the doubts, Christ says…
“I Strengthen the hands that are feeble, I make firm the knees that are weak, I say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, I come to save you.”
- Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, and you will see and understand what’s going on.
- The ears of the deaf be cleared and you will hear a message of hope.
- You who are lame who have felt tired and weak and worn down – will leap like a stag.
- The tongue of the mute will sing a story of answered prayers.
- And I will send you to the parishioners you meet with joy and gladness; sorrow and mourning will flee.
Philippians 4:1-9 – “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
We can all reflect: In what ways am I overly anxious about the cares of life? In what ways have I let despair and self-pity conquer my hope? Jesus revealed the ways of the kingdom to us in his words, so that, as He said, “My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
I close with a quote from Lorenzo Scupoli; the author of Il Combattimento Spirituale, an important work of Catholic spirituality. He says, As the omnipotence of God is infinite, nothing is impossible to Him; as His wisdom is infinite, nothing is difficult to Him; as His goodness is immeasurable, He has an infinite desire for our well-being. Now, should this not be enough to make us repose all our confidence in Him?
Audio of homily is here: