Concerning Advent, Jesuit Father John Foley, S.J. writes:
The Church’s world-wide retreat, now begins its second week. The quiet time of simplicity. The great contrast with our culture’s turbulent and noisy consumer bonanza, the unknown fate of hundreds-of-thousands of refugees and grieving families in a California city named for the Saint who wrote so profoundly about “Mary, Queen of Peace.” (San Bernardino)
In the Old Testaments reading from Baruch, we read,
Jerusalem: God will show all the earth your splendor: you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship.
The Hebrew name “Jerusalem” was a name given by God and is translated, “The peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship.”
How well does that name fit the Church today? How well does that name fit our parish? If poorly, then quoting Pope Francis when he was in Philadelphia, what do I do to make it fit?
- What name would you like God to call St. Monica parish?
- What name would you like God to call Your family?
- What name would you like God to call you?
Fr. Foley continues:
Surrounded by such sadness and confusion, who can sit back and be quiet in Advent? Maybe the Church is just irreparably cut off from the “real world,” hiding in pews and doting on a comforting and “nice” view of life. Is this also perhaps an indictment of us as well?
Well, it depends. For those who are awake and willing to run towards the darkness, the challenge, the difficulties, one can choose a different path.
In her articles “An American in Sparta” Pentagon correspondent Pamela Hess recalled the words of a senior commander who said, “Marines run toward gun fire – not away from it. And the worse conditions are, the better Marines seem to like it.”
So during this Advent, we are being asked to undergo some “stretching” in our approach to life and in our approach to tragedy. Jesus comes not just into our parties, our dreams of successful careers, our happiness and cheer, our perfect families and honor student children, but also – and importantly – into the craggy mountains and deep gorges of our lives. (Foley)
But this is hard. This is scary. This knocks us out of a comfortable, complacent and “nice Advent.” But it’s important. Why the history lesson in the beginning of the Gospel? Why the names and dates and places? It’s not about history. It’s not there as a description for an event – it’s for a message. And the message is mercy. The message is contrition and repentance for forgiveness.
Years ago, a family member of mine, who went to Penn State, told me about a man there nick-named “Bro Cope.” The guy used to hang out on the college green in front of the library, railing at everyone about their sinful lives and that they were going to Hell. People simply walked by or ignored him or found him amusing or annoying.
Contrast this with another crazy nut: John the Baptist. The way John is described, you’d think he was a maniac. So what’s the difference? John was speaking to the hearts of the people. Something he said resonated with the people. Even Herod was listening closely.
That’s the challenge of the message of Advent. We want to be right. We have difficulty giving – or receiving – forgiveness. And the only way for the message of Advent to resonate and take root in our lives is to “run towards the shooting” and towards the difficulty of dealing with “messy mercy.” That doesn’t occur in nice, pleasant, tinsel, tree-lit environment. “The word of God came to John [the Baptist] son of Zechariah in the desert.”
Understand – this isn’t hard ….. this is IMPOSSIBLE! But we’re not doing this by ourselves. St. Paul says in the Second Reading, “the one who began the good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
HOW is God “the instigator of good work in you?” (Foley). Can you point to a specific instance recently where the “God of endless newness has carved fresh roads through the wilderness of your life?”
This is why the message is important. This is a message – as challenging as it is – that can resonate with others. We need to talk about this message – not like Bro Cope – but like The Baptist. Others we know are in the desert as well. Our words can become like seeds in the desert …
Providing fullness to emptiness,
Adding God’s structure to their lives – providing color, form and fragrance,
Hidden in seed – blessing the desert – and flowering peace
Audio version of the homily is here: