Hi everyone – here’s my homily for the THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT – December 12, 2010 – The readings for today’s Mass can be found at Thanks for reading, and all your feedback and comments. God Bless, Fr. Jim

– He is only in his early 40’s, he got some really bad news that he wasn’t expecting from the doctor. To say he’s anxious is truly an understatement.
– She and her sisters cannot even look at each other any more they are that angry. It’s gone from a disagreement that no one imagined would be a big deal, to giving the cold shoulder, to a blow up after their father’s funeral and now the only way they can talk to each other is through a lawyer.
– He still can’t believe that he was fired from his job. Not laid off, not had his job or position cut… he was actually fired. Was he perfect, no, but it didn’t warrant that. It’s like they were looking for a reason to get rid of him, and objectively speaking, it sure looks that way.
– They are struggling… neither one of them knows when their relationship went from being life-giving to simply hard work, and they don’t know if they can take it anymore.
– He has legitimately been trying…he’s actually gone to class, done the homework and he’s still failing…

In the week of a priest, you could hear countless variations of those stories. The names, faces, details vary. But it’s just reality striking again… Life can be extremely hard. And no doubt everyone of us could fill in the blanks with names, faces, details that each of us know – or are going through ourselves. They are the intentions that we “hold in our hearts and now recall in silence” as we pause for a moment that never seems long enough to get them all in.

And there’s something about hearing these stories, knowing these realities exist in mid-December that seems extra-wrong. As if we should be able to lodge a complaint somewhere with a customer service rep for the Lord to remind Him that this is supposed to be a “sadness-free” zone through his Birthday (we can negotiate whether we get the 12 days of Christmas… but at least a couple) As you get older, as you’ve gone to a hospital or nursing home on Christmas day, you realize that whether it’s the Christmas season or not… whether you’re the most devout of believers or an atheist who’s trying to fit in by saying “Happy Holidays” – the reality of Bad Things happening to people, good, bad, somewhere in between… is just that, a reality we have to acknowledge. And it’s a reality that, in short, sucks.

This past week, just sitting with my own list of names, faces and details during a holy hour, and praying with this Gospel reading, the realization of how the harshness of life hits everyone seemed to hit home even harder. We just heard about John the Baptist. Remember this is Jesus’ cousin… his cousin!

Before he was even born, when John the Baptist was in his mother Elizabeth’s womb, and Jesus was in his mother, the Virgin Mary’s womb, God had already blest John with this knowledge revealing His presence coming to the world in a dramatically new, history shifting way. John leapt in his mother’s womb. And it’s clear that this is the start of his vocation, that this will become his life’s mission. . . The only thing John was able to do through the rest of his life was preach to the world that the Lord was coming to them… Calling people to prepare for this humanity-changing event by turning away from their sins, by repenting, by being open to changing their lives because that’s what being open to God would do for them.

What was first revealed to John before his birth that made him leap – was confirmed to him, when Jesus would come out to the desert, encounter John, enter into the river Jordan with him and hear the voice of God the Father saying “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him.” How awesome a moment, what greater validation could John have ever experienced that Jesus was truly the one… The Son, the Lord, the one all humanity has been waiting for.

We have to refresh ourselves on all of that as we approach today’s Gospel. Because we get a completely different side of things. John’s been preaching in this exciting, convincing manner that the Lord was coming and has developed a following of people himself. In today’s Gospel we hear how John sends these friends of his to go to Jesus a question. A question he can’t ask himself… That’s what happens when you’re chained, tortured and imprisoned and have your life in the hands of a tyrant who will ultimately decide to end your life because of the bizarre request of a woman who basically gives the tyrant a lap dance. John asks Jesus, somewhat understandably, Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?

In that, John the Baptist, who Jesus will say after hearing that question that there has been “none greater”, this prophet gives voice to all of our fears, all of our doubts, all of our discouragements. In all of our countless trials, in all of these extremes… we can easily feel helpless… hopeless… and that question from John can resonate those feelings… Jesus, are you the one?

Yet instead of focusing on the moment of darkness that John was experiencing as he asks the question, look at the fact that he asks the question. Because what does that tell us? That John hasn’t given up his faith. Somewhere in the midst of the darkness, with the heavy heart of a man who is cut off, alone, and facing an uncertain future, his memory still recalls that day in the Jordan river… That voice of the Father throughout his life might seem diminished at that moment, but it still resonates with the ears of his heart. John still believes… as hard as it might be in that situation, he still believes.

John shares his pain, shares his fears, his doubts with his friends, his followers… telling them what – to Go to Jesus… to ask that question – Jesus are you the one. And what an amazingly beautiful, hope filled response Jesus gives to them. No parables. No dodging. No short-answers. He says GO TELL JOHN WHAT YOU HEAR AND SEE – THE BLIND REGAIN THEIR SIGHT, THE LAME WALK, LEPERS ARE CLEANSED, THE DEAF HEAR, THE DEAD ARE RAISED, AND THE POOR HAVE THE GOOD NEWS PROCLAIMED TO THEM.

Jesus is telling us how the world is changing. God has come, and is still coming. Emmanuel – God is with us. Yes, with that arrival, all of creation is being renewed… John might not feel it at that moment… and we might not either when we know so many who are suffering, or are in pain, or are feeling lost, or feeling without hope. Yet the good news is that those aren’t the ends of any of our stories. As messed up, as painful as that dark night you might be going through. As terrible or scared or afraid as we might be…

The call of Advent is to not give up. Jesus is the one. The very fact that we are here is because people have experienced some of that re-creation. So we’re encouraged to “rejoice” this Sunday at what has already been experienced in the world… To not let the waiting for our darkness to disappear, to not let the ongoing trials we face to prevent us from going to Jesus.

Do we still believe that He is the one? Can we open our hearts to welcome him in? Are we willing to wait for Him to change us, to renew us, to heal us? Because – in ways we don’t expect or sometimes appreciate – He will, if we let Him That’s why it’s so beautiful to hear the words of St. James in the second reading tonight. He says to us You too must be patient. Make your hearts firm because the coming of the Lord is at hand.