HOMILY ADVENT WEEK 03 03 – Year II
Jesus the Messiah – the One Who Was to Come
(Is 45:6-25; Ps 85; Lk 7:19-23)
In the movie The Priest, a young priest learns of incest in a girl’s family but can’t break the seal of confession and can’t get her to talk to anyone about it. In desperation he leaves a meeting early after learning that she is with her father, begs God to do something, allowing her mom to go home early and discover the painful truth for herself. His prayer is answered, but in a way he would never have imagined.
What are our expectations of God? Of ourselves? Are we open to the way God might be answering our prayers, and even coming into our lives today, to heal, forgive, guide, encourage and instruct? Are we recognizing our blindness, lameness, poverty, muteness? Are we letting God in?
In the movie, the priest suffers the consequences of that answered prayer, as the mother blames him for not telling anyone. In the end, he is forgiven by the girl, which gives him an experience of reconciliation deeper than anything he had ever experienced before. God was at work even there.
Advent is a time of checking our expectations, and praying that we will be open to them being realized in often surprising ways.
Isaiah, in the first reading today, calls us to return to the Lord who is Creator, Holy and our Saviour. In the Gospel, John the Baptist, imprisoned by King Herod for speaking truth to power and challenging the king, wonders if Jesus is truly the Messiah for whom they are waiting, or do they need to wait for another.
Jesus responds by telling John that the prophecies of the Old Testament are being fulfilled in him. Not the expectations of a powerful Messiah who would overcome the oppressive Roman regime, but the prophecies of Isaiah that the blind would see, the dear hear, the mute speak, the lame walk, the lepers healed, the dead raised, and the poor have good news brought to them – that they are truly the privileged of God who is closest to the poor, the Anawim, those who know they need God.
Psalm 85 has a unique way of speaking of how God comes to us in our lives: Justice and peace shall kiss, righteousness will come down from heaven, and faithfulness spring up from the earth.
This psalm alludes to the two-fold mission of the Messiah: to redeem and sanctify; to forgive and to heal. Jesus came not just to offer us God’s unconditional love as forgiveness of our sins, but also to heal us, to make us whole, to take away our sinfulness, that which makes us sin. Justice will come down from heaven to forgive us, and peace will spring up from the earth as we are healed. This is a much more profound mission of the Messiah than just being a political power. This is divine power over the real enemies of humanity: sin, sinfulness, suffering, sickness and death. That is what Jesus has come to destroy and liberate us from.
Carey Landry had it right in his hymn, Lay Your Hands, when he sings “Bring us your forgiveness and healing.” The 12 Step program of AA is a practical living out of this two-fold mission of the Messiah: Steps 4 & 5, 8 & 9 are all about experiencing forgiveness – from God, ourselves, and others. Steps 6 & 7 are all about healing – letting God take away our defects of character, our painful emotions, negative attitudes and addictions, by filling us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Our task is simply to believe, to come back to our God to receive God’s unconditional love as forgiveness and healing, and then go out to spread this Good News to others.
St. John of the Cross is one whose faith in Jesus as Messiah gave him the strength to accept much suffering in his life. He used that suffering to grow even closer to God by identifying with Christ who suffered for us. His writings, especially on the Dark Night of the Soul, inspire us to this day.
The Eucharist we celebrate now is both an experience of forgiveness through pondering God’s Word, and healing through communion with the Body and Blood of Jesus shed for us on the Cross.
So, may this celebration strengthen our faith in this good news, and fulfill our expectations of forgiveness and healing that Jesus alone can provide.