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Bishop's Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent

December 10, 2017

Second Sunday of Advent, Year B
[Chapels at Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam; Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa, Honolulu (Vietnamese Mass; 25th Anniversary of Deacon Antony Nguyen)]

Admit it:  sin can be lots of fun!

People do not engage in illicit sex because it is tortuous to do so, but because it gives them such a physical and emotional thrill.  Sharing juicy tidbits of gossip about another person can be a very interesting way to connect with others and to let them know that we are “in the know.”  Walking away from commitments in the family can free up time to pursue activities that are much more stimulating for me.  Staying home from church on Sunday can give more time for sleep, golf, surfing, or shopping.  Making fun of another person who is different from me in some way can make people laugh and think that I am a comedian.  Cheating a little on my taxes or my accounts can give me much for money for what I want to buy for myself.  Throwing my weight around over my subordinates can show everyone how powerful I am.

If we make these choices, however, we may experience a momentary pleasure, but after a while we will seem empty, hollow, and hypocritical, because in our heart of hearts we know that we are sowing the seeds of discord, of mistrust, and of disintegration of our relationships.  We become addicted to the fun of sin and fail to recognize how little by little, but without any doubt, it cripples us and brings much suffering to the world.

But today we hear of a messenger who calls us to repentance, to leave sin behind and to immerse ourselves in the waters of goodness and virtue.  The messenger and the message can seem severe, because turning away from sin can seem to take all the fun out of life.  But this messenger, John the Baptist, as severe as he might seem with his camel hair clothes and his diets of locusts and wild honey, actually points us to someone beyond himself, someone who is much greater than he and whose sandal strap he is not even worthy to loosen.  And while this greater person also demands repentance from sin, he will immerse us in the life of God himself.  He will baptize us in the Holy Spirit.

Jesus does come with his message, “Turn away from sin,” but he continues, “and believe in the Good News!”  When we make straight the way for Jesus, he will comfort his people, speak tenderly to us, and take away our sins.  We may miss the thrill of sin, but we will be submerged in the joy of knowing his love.  No more will there be the momentary thrill followed by guilt and emptiness.  There will be lasting joy and gladness, even when we have to engage in the very hard work of filling in our valleys of selfishness and bringing down our mountains of pride.  If we allow ourselves to be completely embraced by this shepherd who feeds his flock and gathers the lambs into his arms, we will soon discover that our hard work of repentance may not bring the momentary thrills, but it will bring much greater harmony and peace to our own lives and to all the world.

Once we allow ourselves to be soaked – baptized – into the Holy Spirit that Jesus pours out upon us, then we will want to go up on a high mountain to be the heralds of these glad tidings, to cry out at the top of our voices, “Here is your God, who comes to save!”  And when others see the joy in our hearts, they may be more willing to abandon the emptiness of sin with its high thrills and its deep valleys of emptiness.  They may be moved to turn to themselves to prepare the way of the Lord, knowing that they will have the joy of his embrace.