Monday, December 16, 2013

What were you hoping to see?

Sed Quid Existis Videre?
Homily for Gaudate Sunday

December 15th, MMXIII
Parish of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (Rosa Road)
Rev. Michael Taylor

 Blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in me.[1]

            On first glance, our Gospel reading seems a bit odd. John the Baptist’s disciples come to Jesus asking, art thou he that art to come, or do we look for another? [2] Jesus answer, the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in me. Why would anyone be scandalized by this? People being cured, the dead being raised, all of these are good things. Why would anyone mind? It would like going to a doctor, being cured, and then being angry at the doctor for having been cured. To understand it though, you must understand what Jesus is saying. He’s quoting from three different places from the Prophet Isaiah; Isaiah 35.6,[3] 26.19,[4] and 41.17.[5] Why are these scandalous? Because in these passages from Isaiah, it is the Lord God Himself who promises to do these things. As we heard in our first reading, God Himself will come and save you.[6] Jesus is claiming to be nothing less than God Himself, the one who is to come. That’s why it’s a scandal. That God would become flesh and dwell among us.[7] And in case anyone doubted what He was saying, Jesus goes on to say about John the Baptist, for this is he of whom it is written; “Behold I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.” He’s quoting Isaiah again,[8] and the one who is to come is none less than the Lord God.
            So what were you expecting? What are we expecting when we see Jesus? What effect does it have in our life? Jesus asks the crowds around Him, What went you out into the desert to see? A reed shaken with the wind? [9] Wouldn’t it be so much easier for us if God just revealed Himself to the world? If He were to peal back the veil of heavens, and reveal Himself, saying, “Hello, I am God. I exist. This is my beloved Son Jesus, fully human and fully divine. This is the Holy Spirit who proceeds from Father and Son. Here is the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints here in heaven. There is heaven and hell. There. You don’t have to doubt anymore.” It would be nice to have that assurance. To have some sign that this is true. Yet think to this question. How many times do we receive a sign, and it turns out to not be enough for us to believe? At one point the scribes and Pharisees come up to Jesus demanding a sign, to which Jesus responds, an evil and adulterous generation seeketh a sign: and a sign shall not be given it, save but the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah was in the whale’s belly three days and three nights: so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.[10] Jesus has risen from the dead. Is this proof enough for us? Because the truth is that miracles happen all the time and people still do not believe. When Our Lord multiplied the five barley loaves and two fish to feed over five thousand people, people still walked away from Him and His teachings.[11] When you go to Lourdes, you can see records of sixty-nine miracles that science and medicine cannot provide an explanation for as to their cause. These are events from just the 19th century either, but some are within the past couple of years, the last one being certified on the 20th of June of this year. Yet people still do not believe. The Fatima miracle of the dancing sun occurred before tens of thousands of peoples, believers and atheists alike.  Still people do not believe. We just celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The tilma, the cloak that the image of the Blessed Virgin appears on, is over five hundred years old. It exists on a fabric that should have disintegrated after twenty years. Yet even after being subjected to fire, smoke, acid and war, it is still is as vibrant as it was in 1531. And these are just the miracles that belong to the patronage of our Blessed Mother. Every saint we canonize has two miracles that have been scientifically examined, by believers and atheists alike for the sake of veracity. Still people do not believe.
            What did you hope to encounter when you came into the desert? What did you hope to experience? The act of faith revolves around the encounter with the risen Lord, the one who suffered, died and was buried and then conquered the gates of hell and the sting of death through His resurrection.[12] It revolves around our belief in the promises that He made, that those who die with Him in baptism shall live with Him in that same Resurrection.[13] It then becomes a question of what are effects is this encounter going to have in our life?
            The entirety of the Advent season is actually a penitential season, a season where the Christian yearns for the return of the bridegroom. Our society has somehow inversed it though. We party hard during these weeks so that by the time Christmas comes along, the time when true feasting should be occurring, we are so sick of turkey, ham, egg nog, cakes, sweets and food, that we turn away disgusted. Are we awaiting for Christ or are we so consumed with the things of this world, that we don’t stand ready for his return? Recall the words of Our Lord when He warned, if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My lord is long in coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eats and drinks with drunkards: the lord of that servant shall come in a day that he hopeth not, and at an hour that he knoweth not: and shall separate him, and appoint his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.[14]
            There is the parable you are all familiar with of the ten virgins who are awaiting the return of the bridegroom. Five are wise and have stored up extra oil, while five were foolish and did not. When the bridegroom returns those who had stored up enough oil were able to go into the banquet with the Lord whereas those unprepared are left out in the darkness. Therefore, store up with oil! In this we must understand that the oil is the means by which we bring light to the world. Does not our Lord say, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven? [15] Do works of righteousness so that when the Lord appears again in glory, you will be well stocked and ready for his arrival. What are works of righteousness? The scriptures tell us prayer is good with fasting and alms more than to lay up treasures of gold. For alms delivereth from death, and the same is that which purgeth away sins, and maketh to find mercy and life everlasting.[16] This Advent season, instead of worrying about which holiday special to watch or what movie to catch on Netflix, spend time in prayer. Spend some of that time reading the Scriptures, the Gospels. Read the lives of the saints. Go to confession Instead of having lavish feasts and parties during this penitential season, make sure that food is being given to the food pantries. Instead of trying to buy more and more gifts for one another, let us make sure that the poor have clothes to wear during these bitter months. We ought to be more concerned with giving the necessities of life to those who need it rather than in consuming frivolities. When we do these things we build up for ourselves treasures in heaven. Our oil becomes stocked and we find ourselves more eager for the arrival of the bridegroom than about the passing pleasures of this world. Let us pray that the bridegroom finds us waiting and ready.

[1] Matthew 11.6
[2] Matthew 11.3
[3] Isaiah 35.6: Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall be free: for waters are broken out in the desert, and streams in the wilderness.
[4] Isaiah 26.19: Thy dead men shall live, my slain shall rise again: awake, and give praise, ye that dwell in the dust: for thy dew is the dew of the light: and the land of the giants thou shalt pull down into ruin.
[5] Isaiah 41.17: When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
[6] Isaiah 35.4
[7] John 1.14
[8] Isaiah 40.3: A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
[9] Matthew 11.7
[10] Matthew 12.39-40
[11] cf. John 6
[12] cf. I Corinthians 15.54-56
[13] cf. Romans 6.3-4
[14] Matthew 24.48-51
[15] Matthew 5.16
[16] Tobit 12.8-9

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