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Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent

Second Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12

Saint John Baptist de LaSalle/Saint Stephen December 4, 2022

We all hope in things that we believe are somehow possible, here are some examples: "I hope I find a million dollars today, on my way home from Church." "I hope all my dreams for success will be fulfilled." "I hope I win the Lottery." However, some people see this kind of hope as "false hope," the sort that some preachers peddle, and it can itself be a torment. Isaiah hoped, "On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom." "Yes," they might argue, "Nature can surprise us. Something that was seemingly dead can sprout again. But not people. People are more predictable than plants. They may live longer than expected, but they rarely ever change. Don't get your hopes up." Yet Advent is a season of hope. Now I am speaking of hope, not optimism. There is a great difference between the two. Optimism is our generous assessment of a situation, in other words things may improve. Hope is an act on our part, a conscious opening of ourselves to God. Hope is only possible on our part because God is open to us. Or, as we like to say, "because we have been graced by God." When we hope, we open ourselves to the action of God. If our actions were all that mattered, we would be gods. We would not need to seek the living God. To open ourselves to God, the one true God, not some idol, is to surrender ourselves to mystery, to a place we have not yet been, a way of life we have not yet known. This is certain, nothing will change in our life without this openness. God is our origin and our destiny, both of which lie beyond us. If we do not open ourselves to hope, we will not live, we will wither and die. Sin is a word we shun; we don't even like to say it. However, rejecting a word does not change the reality. We have alienated ourselves from God.

This alienation profoundly alters who we are, who we were meant to be. What we call sin originates with the ancient lie that we are not good enough, that we are not lovable, that our only cause for optimism is our own cunning. This sad, common curse makes the hearts of evil people recognizable to us, for they share the same sad lie. No shoot can sprout from soil so befouled by the lie that is a sin. So, for the love of God, we must learn to love ourselves. But we can only do that if we learn to love God, if we see ourselves a fundamentally open to something beyond ourselves, embraced by it. We must pray for the grace to see ourselves as God sees us. All priests must recognize that this is the great commission given to us. To help a wounded soul see itself as God sees it. We are to do this by announcing the very fulfillment of hope, the forgiveness of sin. What happens if you are unwilling to hope? In great sorrow I must say, "Nothing! We were created either to embrace hope or to expire,” No one can say what might happen if you truly embrace hope. Yet that is not entirely true. All those companies out there, which offer us false hope, that promise to change our life and finally make us happy, well, they will lose us as a customer. Why? Because you will not need them, because you will have begun to take on the appearance and the manner of John the Baptist. "John wore clothing made of camel's hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey." How do I know that you will look like John the Baptist? Because John was no peddler of optimism. John was a person of hope.

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