The 2nd Sunday in Advent – The Homily
I was listening to a talk from a prominent church leader entitled, “Leading in a New Reality.” Many leaders need to lead through uncertain and turbulent times. Unchartered territory and rough patches force new levels of courage and creativity that calm conditions don’t require. It’s in these times that some of the best growth can occur. In this Summit session, Bill Hybels shares 4 leadership lessons from leading through difficult seasons. Hybles provides some advice from a philosophical front, a financial front, a relationship front and then – at 42:30 in the talk – Bill begins to speak about his own experience from a personal front. He shares, rather intimately, where he had gone “off the rails” at times in his life and what important, and painful, biblical lessons he learned from those experiences.
He asks people to consider their personal “bucket.” This is the metaphorical symbol of all of your physical, emotional, spiritual capabilities. Then ask yourself the question: What fills your bucket? What gives you life? What replenishes you. Then (really important step here …)
Write it down! Look at the list. Is it sufficient? Is it long enough or is the list too short? How do you know? Go on to the next step…
What drains your bucket? What depletes you? What’s killing you softly and slowly? Then (really important step here …) Write it down! Look at the list. Is this list too long?
Compare both lists. Does the replenish list overcome the depletion list or is the list of activities/emotions that wears you down overwhelming what you need to do to replenish yourself?
If we were going to examine this from a biblical/spiritual/catechetical point of view, we could start with today’s First Reading from Isaiah. The prophet lays out the classic list of “Gifts of the Holy Spirit” that we memorized before receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation. Scripture scholar and author Reginald Fuller groups six of the gifts into the following categories:
Intellectual: “A spirit of wisdom” which can be defined as the desire to understand God; the want to do so. “… and a spirit of understanding” which is the comprehension to apply that to your daily life and know how to live as a follower of Christ.
Practical: “A spirit of counsel” were we get to know the difference between right and wrong “… and a spirit of strength” which is the capacity and capability to actually choose to do what is right.
Corporal: “A spirit of knowledge” which is more than an accumulation of facts. It includes real power. This is the actual ability to walk in the right path through life” and is also known as “righteous living” “… and fear of the LORD” which is “filial fear,” like a child’s fear of offending his father, rather than a “servile fear,” that is, a fear of punishment.
So where do we start? St. Anselm once said to “Break off from your cares and troubles and be less concerned about your tasks and labors. Make a little time for God and rest…” This seems to be the point of departure recommended by the spiritual masters – just get quiet. Find a place and a time, shut everything off and just do nothing in silence for a little bit of time. Schedule it into your calendar. Allow the body to experience a lack of energy and noise and excitement and stimulation, even for a little while.
Second, ask God to help. Ask the Lord to provide a sign that He hears you and is providing aid and comfort and guidance and power so that life begins to change.
It has been said that the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the perfection of the virtue of hope. That seems to be the summary of what Isaiah and Hybels and St. Anselm espouse. We can ask for God to bestow in us a sense of confidence that He will lead us. This leading is not like a demanding and critical taskmaster ready to punish us for transgressions and shortcomings, but more like a loving mentor or coach who points out areas where we can improve, instructs us on the consequences of not performing the task correctly, corrects and guides us and suggests alternatives for us to begin to thrive in our actions.
Audio version of the homily is here: