The First Sunday of Advent – The Homily
Paul’s first letter to the church of Corinth provides us with a fuller insight into the life of an early Christian community of the first generation than any other book of the New Testament. Through it we see a community with strengths and weaknesses made of individuals – men and women who had accepted the good news of Christ and were now trying to realize in their lives the implications of their baptism – with both strengths and the weaknesses.
If there were newspapers and media web sites in Corinth during the time of St. Paul, the headlines would look just like ours today.
A few days ago I was online looking at some news websites. No matter which website you pulled up, the report at the top of the page was about Matt Lauer. I must admit a certain amount of “schadenfreude” in reading about him and other people, be it Harvey Weinstein or Charlie Rose, Al Franken or Roy Moore. For years, the entertainment industry, members of the media and select politicians have ridiculed, attacked or “called out” the Catholic Church for mistakes that we have made. Each time I felt a little bit of anger because of the hypocrisy behind the vehemence that was leveled against the Catholic Church. I was aware of the true facts surrounding the John Jay study of priest child abuse, the Educator Sexual Abuse study by Charol Shakeshaft out of Hofstra and the report, commissioned by the American Association of University Women in the year 2000, surveying students between eighth and 11th grades whether they had ever experienced inappropriate sexual conduct at school. People know that this was not a Catholic issue. People who screamed “priest – pedophile – pervert” are now seen to be perpetrators themselves.
I recall a conversation I had a number of years ago among several priests and one bishop where someone said that all of the grand jury reports, and all of the scrutiny, and all of the pain that the Catholic Church had gone through had the signs of the hand of God upon it. God had had enough and, in the spirit of Matthew 18:6, was going to finally protect the “least of His brothers and sisters.” But, beyond that, God sees the future. Was it possible that God was also preparing the Catholic Church to do, now, what she is commissioned to do – to reach out, advise, aid and support those who have fallen with the experience the Church now has? The bishop even mentioned that some school administrators had quietly called him to ask the question, “How do we handle this?” knowing that a similar child abuse scandal was going to eventually break out in the public sector.
Certainly we do not want to rejoice nor do we want to spark at the misfortune of others. More than any other organization, the Catholic Church understands the sinfulness of human nature and the difficulty of living our own incarnation especially in a society where temptation in all areas of life are evident. Bishop Baron talked about this in his usual compelling way. He talks about the word “redemption.’ Redemption is not just forgiving someone or an apology. In its original context, real redemption s deals with slavery and kidnapping. The person who was kidnapped or enslaved would wait for someone to come forward and free them from a situation which was well beyond their capabilities and from which they could not extricate themselves by themselves. Baron also talks about how all of us, in some way large or small, are either addicted to something or feel a string pull of a particular temptation on an almost constant basis. We feel as if we are in the grip of something that is beyond ourselves and beyond our power, from which we cannot free ourselves. We need something – or someone – else who is larger and more powerful to be able to come in and free us or “redeem” us from this grip of temptation or addiction.
- Pick out a person, about whom you recently read, who is in trouble. Say ONE prayer for that person that the Lord would somehow come into their life and send the people, resources and events to begin to help redeem them.
- Pick out your favorite sin or addiction. Say ONE prayer to the Lord that His grace will move you one step further down the path to freedom.
The audio version of the homily is here: