First Sunday of ADVENT 2021
Updated: Jan 14, 2022
God’s word can find us anywhere — at home, at work, while traveling, even in prison, as Jeremiah discovered:
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still confined in the court of the guard (Jeremiah 33:1).
Prison is bad enough, but as we hear, it gets even worse for Jeremiah, who is forced to serve his prison sentence in the middle of a foreign invasion. Jeremiah began his ministry in 626 BC … a very long time ago!
In addition to these horrifying external realties, Jeremiah also carries the burden of the message, that Judah’s situation is going to get worse before it gets better. And remember, his message is to the people who worship, who are in the temple … people like us … what is the message?
Reform your ways … and your actions …
So, the back story underlines the faithlessness of Judah’s leadership and its disregard for its societal responsibilities, because they:
- Worshipped God in deed only
- Claimed to know the living God, but they were not faithful
- Worshipped God with their lips, but their hearts were far from God
As a result, their actions and their inactions, invited death and destruction into the city’s once mighty walls.
Judah’s faithlessness courts a terrifying encounter with the Hidden God, whose anger undoes creation, human and non-human alike.
- City devolves into a state of chaos, desolation, and lifelessness.
- Once bustling, Jerusalem has been returned to a kind of pre-creational tohu wavohu (Genesis 1:2).
- Without form – unseen and unformed – chaos and darkness
In the words of Psalm 104, “When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust” (Psalm 104:29).
But … the story doesn’t end here. Even while Yahweh roars in anger outside Jerusalem’s walls, he simultaneously offers the promise of a new future, from within the walls of Jerusalem in the person and words of Jeremiah.
I am going to bring it recovery and healing;
I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security.
I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel and rebuild them as they were at first.
I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and;
I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me.
God’s forgiveness creates a new future for Jerusalem. This new future will be one:
-in which hidden promises are revealed;
-in which God’s shadowed face will come gloriously into view, and;
- in which justice and righteousness will prevail in the land.
This is what Advent is all about ... our generous response to God’s invitation to be God’s faithful people.
Advent is about the prophets of our time, coming here into our church and preaching to us, challenging us to look deeply into our own hearts, our own, not someone else’s, to see if we have become like the ancients, who:
- Worshipped God in deed only;
- Claimed to know the living God, but they were not faithful;
- Worshipped God with their lips but their hearts were far from God.
Usually, I take the week before Thanksgiving off for vacation. While COVID made it impossible to do so the last two years, this year I was able to take a little break … and I went to Rome … the place I was trained, where I still have friends, and favorite spots to visit and incredible memories.
If you’ve been there, you know that there are magnificent Churches, inspiring pieces of art everywhere, the best pizza in the world and so many other reasons to visit.
Each time I go, I seek something new to inspire me, to touch me, to bring me deeper into why I became a priest in the first place … I guess I seek a sign that I made the right choice with my life and my vocation to the priesthood, cause in these days, sometimes I wonder.
I said that the beginning of this homily that “God’s word can find us anywhere” … On one of our days’ walks, we were at the Vatican and I had to use the restroom … and if you’ve been to Rome, you know that bathrooms are few and far between, and not nearly as hygienic as we have become accustomed to here.
Anyway, at St Peter’s I remembered that at the right side of the colonnade, as you enter the square, there are public bathrooms. Not having much of a choice we walked towards them … and it was at that moment that I had my sign … the living presence of God’s word slapping me in the face with a mighty force …
Because in that little, cordoned off space outside the bathrooms, Pope Francis had ordered a complete change to the layout … yes, the bathrooms were still there, thank goodness, but there were also showers, medical assistance, covid testing and food, all being provided for the poor and homeless of Rome.
This was the sign that God wanted me to see … not the magnificent Churches, not the incredible art, not the best pizza, nor even the cleanest bathroom, but the work of the Church, inspired by the Spirit and ordered by the Pope … to care for the least. BAM!
It was a powerful moment to remind me, that I cannot become like the faithless of Judah’s leadership, worshipping regularly, but disregarding my societal responsibilities … and neither can you.
So, as we begin this Advent season, we will continue to invite one another to care for and share what we have with those less fortunate … we will surely do the traditional things that we have done in the past, but we will also focus more strategically on deepening and expanding our opportunities for response … Lest we too become complacent and return to the chaos of a world unfaithful to God …
God’s living word preaches on, here and now, in the person of Jeremiah who foresaw the dawn of a “new day” … let’s seize that day, today and every day!