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Bishop's Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent

December 17, 2017

Third Sunday of Advent, Year B
[Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, Pearl City (Misa de Gallo)]

I said it after a challenging discussion about how to raise the funds for a hugely expensive project that needs to be done.  I said it as we discussed disaster preparedness plans.  I said it as we faced multiple lawsuits to settle claims with people who had been abused by clergy decades ago.  I said it on many other occasions when problems were powerful and solutions seemed elusive.  What I said was, “Come, Lord Jesus!”  I said it, of course, as a way of emphasizing that his coming would free us from all these problems, taking us immediately off the hook for finding solutions.  His coming would just make life easier; and once the anticipated cataclysm of his coming was over, we would be in his loving and merciful presence forever.  That alone is reason to pray often, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

But just as God came among us in such a surprising way the first time, so it will probably be for his second coming.  When the Son of the Eternal God took on human flesh, God intervened in many ways to prepare the way.  God sent liberators like Moses or Samson to free people from slavery and oppression at enemy hands.  He sent prophets to call people to repentance, to refocus their lives, and to turn away from sin.  He sent kings to guide the people in building up a civilization of love based on worship of the true and living God; and among all whom he sent there was none like King David.  God made a promise to King David that his throne would last forever, a promise that seemed to go broken for centuries.  Yet in the fullness of time God fulfilled the promise.  He sent angels to announce the dramatic preparations he had made.  He chose a lowly maiden named Mary to receive the grace of freedom from sin and in her virginal womb gave life and growth to his only begotten Son.  Isaiah and John the Baptist, from whom we hear today, lived centuries apart, but each was called to prepare the way of the Lord.  Perhaps in the midst of all their trials and tribulations they, too, prayed for the coming of the Messiah, and the Messiah did come in his own shockingly simple way and in his own good time.

So it seems will be the second coming of Jesus.  He may come at any moment, or he may be using us at this very moment to be the prophets who prepare his way.  As God specially chose his early prophets and those who were to be intimately involved in his first coming, he chooses us today to be his Isaiahs or Elijahs, his John the Baptists, or even to be one with the Virgin Mary in giving flesh to God in the world in which we live. 

God has baptized us and anointed us to bring glad tidings to the poor, and we fulfill that mission when we reach out to the homeless, help find solutions to dehumanizing poverty, or strengthen family life in order to eliminate poverty in the long run.  He has anointed and chosen us to heal the brokenhearted, and we do this when we reach out to those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, who struggle with broken relationships, or who are desperately lonely.  We do this when we proclaim liberty to those who are held captive by themselves rather than allowing their hearts to be captivated by Jesus; or when we do the tough work of loving someone enough that the person no longer feels a need to anesthetize the pain of loneliness and rejection, but can embrace them as an opportunity for growth.  We do this by insisting in the midst of so much suffering and strife in the world that there is great reason to rejoice always, to pray without ceasing and in all circumstances to give thanks.

And so we see that God’s way is not to instantaneously take us out of our struggles and sorrows, to suddenly make them end, as much as we might wish for such relief.  God’s way is to send us out with the message that no matter how difficult things may seem, no matter if the whole world seems doomed to be nailed to a tree of suffering, rejection, and death, we can be prophets of joy, because we show by our words and by our deeds that God is already with us, that Jesus is the only hope for this foundering world, and that he wants to come again into every heart and every land.  So even as we longingly pray, “Come, Lord Jesus,” hoping that he will free us from all trials and travail, we rejoice always, even in the long and laborious journey, and we will find that he is indeed God-with-us, Emmanuel.