2nd Sunday of Advent Year B

I’m going to let you in on a little secret that maybe I shouldn’t because it will help you dissect my preaching in the future. When the Church sat down after the Second Vatican Council to decide which readings should be used on which days, She set a very simple precented; that the First Reading and the Gospel should be connected while the second reading doesn’t necessarily relate to the First Reading or Gospel, although it can, and it often gives us some kind of moral instruction.

Even knowing that principal I find myself a little confused this week because it seems like all of the readings are giving us a mixed message. In the first reading we hear that famous lament from the prophet Isaiah “Comfort, bring comfort to my people.” Then in the Second Reading we hear that the heavens will pass with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire. Then in the Gospel we are introduced to this strange person who lives out in the desert and proclaims the coming of God. I don’t know about you, but destruction by fire, wearing camel’s hair and locusts is not exactly my idea of comfort. But that is perhaps because God’s ways are not always our ways. He’s not simply content with giving us passing pleasures. No God wants something more for us. He wants to give us true and lasting happiness and I think that’s a point as Christians that we miss allot.

For the past number of years as I have watched some of my friends drift away from the Church and some come back to faith and as I have looked at the world and seen the statistics that less and less people are engaged in faith, I have found myself wondering is there a common denominator amongst all of us. There has to be something that if we get in a room and start talking, we can share in common. I don’t claim to have it all figured out, but I think one common denominator is the pursuit of happiness.

I think all human beings want to be happy. If you look at everything you do in your life, both the good things and the bad things, I think you’ll have to admit that you do them in pursuit of some happiness. The problem is we sometimes get happiness wrong. This is the point of the great St. Augustine. If you are looking for just one book to read next year read his class Confessions. St. Augustine, one of the great teachers of our faith, had a very dark past. He committed nearly every sin you could imagine, he jumped from one religion to the next believing some very crazy things. We are told that he was so bad, his mom cried herself to sleep praying he would return to the Church and he finally did on her deathbed. Later in life St. Augustine wrote this book where he recounted his dark past, not to brag about the bad things he did, but rather to show that while he was doing all these bad things, he was actually searching for God. While he didn’t know it, he was doing those actions because he was in pursuit of that fulfillment that he only found in God. He ultimately concludes in that most famous line from the book, “our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they rest in you.”[1]  He came to realize that in all the bad things he was doing, he was looking for God in all the wrong places.

You know, I think there are allot of people in the world today who are in a similar situation to the young Augustine. I think one of the reasons people seem to be running away from religion is because they are looking for that happiness and for one reason or another, they are not finding it in the Church. But they are destined for failure because they can search for it in the world and they are going to be left less and less satisfied.

My friends, that is where the challenge comes to you and I, to those of us who believe, to those of us who are preparing to receive Christ into our life at Christmas. When people look at us they should recognize that there is something different about us. They should recognize that we have found the One who can fulfill us. Let me ask this question; do your friends know that you are Catholic? If someone interacted with you, maybe in a business setting or even on the street, would recognize that there is something different about you? There should be. After all we have found the one who brings us our fulfillment.

The challenge for us is to discover how to bring that message out into the world to show people that the world will only leave us frustrated and disappointed but one can find peace, joy and happiness, in God who is beyond the passing things of this world. I think, now in the midst of this pandemic is the perfect time for this. We have been at this pandemic thing for what 8 or 9 months now and the world is worn out. If you placed your hope in your job or material things you are about to face a dead-end. People should be able to look at us and see that there is a different path.

That’s after all the story of John the Baptist. Have you ever wondered why all those people would flock to this crazy guy out in the desert? What was attractive about this guy who ate locust and honey and wore camel’s hair? There must have been something about him that drove them out of the hillside and out of the city to wander into the heat of the desert to listen to him and to be baptized by him. Of course, we know what it was, he had found his fulfillment, he had lived his life and realized that it was God alone who could truly bring him fulfillment.

Last week in the homily, I pointed out that it is possible for us to miss Christmas and I hope each of us is undertaking our preparation for Christmas. But as we do our own preparation, I think we have to acknowledge that there are all these other people who might miss Christmas as well. My friend’s it is a sad reality that there are children out there who have no idea what Christmas is. There are children out there who actually believe that Christmas is only about getting gifts and have no idea that we celebrate the birth of Christ. The world is doing a better job of selling its version of happiness than we are of telling about Jesus who alone can bring happiness. We know in the end that our side wins, but people have to know that we are Christians.

Friends the world seems to be getting scarier and scarier and that’s because people don’t know where to find fulfillment. {story told about an encounter with a teenager in the St. Louis area who had no idea that religion or churches existed) Friends, you and I who have found the fulfillment and who know that Jesus is the solution to all of our problems must stand up. We must become like John the Baptist. We must, in our own way, share the message of Jesus Christ. Afterall when we face Jesus in that nativity scene, our lives cannot remain the same. We must go out and share that news with others.

As we move through this season of Advent, we have been given time to come and prepare to receive Christ and as we prepare, we should find ourselves rooted in the fulfillment that only He can offer. But that is only the first step. The second step then is to prepare to share that message of Christmas with those who haven’t heard it, to those who have forgotten it, or to those who have chosen other pleasures that might get in the way. So, as we move into this second week of Advent and as we prepare our hearts and minds to receive Jesus at Christmas, I think we have to stop and ask ourselves, how does that love of Christ radiate from within me outward to the rest of the world. How do I share the message of the Christmas story, the message that brings hope, peace, and joy to all people?

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