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Homily for the Forth Sunday of Advent

The Scriptures speak of the kind of trust God wants us to put in him.

By Bishop Larry Silva
December 19, 2016

[Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa, Honolulu; Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu]

When someone proposes something that seems to be very far-fetched and says, “Trust me,” we might become very suspicious.  Isn’t that what happened to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden when the serpent said they would be like gods if they ate the fruit God had forbidden them to touch and said, “Trust me”?  Isn’t that what Jesus wondered on the cross when he cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” but in silence his heavenly Father said, “Trust me”?

There are clearly things we should trust and other things that should give us pause.  And I think our Scriptures today speak of the kind of trust God wants us to put in him.

Ahaz was king of Israel when two of his greatest enemies were assembled on his borders, poised to attack.  He consulted the prophet Isaiah about what he should do, and Isaiah told him to do nothing.  God would take care of everything and save the people, if he just trusted enough to listen and heed.  Of course he doubted this advice, so Isaiah told him to ask for a sign from God, “be it deep as the netherworld or high as the sky.”  He said he would not put God to the test – which was, of course, not the point, because God was putting him to the test!  Nevertheless, Isaiah assured him that God would provide a sign of his salvation:  “the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”  So, God said to Ahaz, “Trust me,” and unfortunately Ahaz decided not to do so, and it brought great suffering to the people.  Yet God ultimately fulfilled the incredible promise, and we are here celebrating that indeed a Virgin did conceive and bear a son, whom we call Emmanuel.

Paul refers to himself as a “slave of Christ Jesus.”  He experienced hardships, shipwrecks, scourgings, a stoning, and constant criticism, yet somehow, no matter how difficult situations turned out, he believed the Lord Jesus when he kept saying, “Trust me.”  He was so trusting of God, even when it led to sufferings, that here we are today, listening to his preaching still as he proclaims the good news of Jesus Christ to us.

Joseph discovers that his beloved betrothed, Mary, his sweet, pure and innocent wife-to-be, is pregnant with a child that is not his.  In his kindness he decides to divorce her quietly, as any reasonable man would do.  (How he would do so quietly in a town as small as Nazareth is a question, but at least he had a noble intention.)  Yet when an angel tells him in a dream that this situation is actually the fulfillment of that ancient prophecy given to King Ahaz centuries before, he is naïve enough to accept God’s word and to heed God’s invitation to “Trust me.”  And we are here centuries later to celebrate such wondrous trust in God.

As young people are at the prime of their sexuality, that God-given drive that causes them to want to seek out a special person with whom to share it, there are various voices that say, “Trust me.”  There is God’s voice that says, “Save this for the beautiful commitment of marriage.  It may be very difficult to do so, but trust me!”  Then there are other voices that say, “Go for the gusto, get what you can, and get it now!  Trust me!”  Which speaks the truth?  Which will ultimately bring happiness?  Trusting God’s voice or the voices of the world?

People who are suffering from a terrible and perhaps terminal illness may soon be presented with a new voice that says, “Take a pill and end it all.  It’s your right to have such a compassionate choice to end to your life.  Trust me.”  While God’s voice says, “Do not be afraid to embrace your suffering, to allow yourself to be cared for by your loved ones, and to leave the time of your death to my great wisdom.  Then rather than experience a more intense pain from which there is no escape on the other side of death because you trusted yourself and not me, it will be glorious on the other side.  Trust me.”

When we are faced with the question of giving of our time, talent or treasure for the good of others, we hear one voice that says, “Keep it all for yourself.  Trust me, you will have rewards for years to come.”  And we hear another voice that says, “Give of yourself generously, and you will have rewards that are eternal because you lightened the burdens of your brothers and sisters.  Trust me.”

How do we distinguish and discern when we hear these often contradictory voices that urge us to trust them?  We can only know the true way to go, the way that leads to ultimate good and life, if we put our trust in God, no matter how difficult his demands might be.  It seems incredible that God could take care of us if we refuse to engage in violence but simply trust in him.  It seems mad to think that we can live happily without going for all the gusto life has to offer at this moment.  It seems foolish to think that obedience to God, who often allows us to be nailed to crosses, will ultimately result in the most profound peace and joy.  Yet isn’t that exactly why we are here, to build up this incredible trust, to be led by the Holy Spirit, to have the courage to choose to be slaves of the Lord so that we can ultimately be the freest people on earth?  Isaiah is here to help us.  Paul is here to cheer us on.  Joseph is here to strengthen us in our doubts.  Mary is here to encourage us to “Let it be done” as the Lord wills.  And most of all, Jesus is here, who trusted his Father enough to leave the glories of heaven to experience the sufferings of earth, and who trusted enough to give his life so that he could conquer death forever.  We are here to have our hearts more and more attuned to the voice of God, and to the dreams he has for us, so that we trust not in what only seems to be good, but we trust always in the One who is the fullness goodness and love.