Homily: 3rd Sunday of Advent – Cycle C
I had been preparing a homily for this weekend in which I would play off of the fact that coming up in the next week is the day in which the ancient Mayan calendar ends, which many have believed to be a signal that the world itself would end. Although my intent would have been to invite you all to ask yourselves serious questions about how ready you would be for that day, if it were to happen, I re-thought my plans after hearing of the horrific events that occurred in
Connecticut this past Friday. It just didn’t seem appropriate for me to be lighthearted in light of such a serious event.
One does not need pictures or descriptions to describe what a horrible scene it must be in that school, and what horrible suffering the people of Newtown—and the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School—are experiencing as the reality of this tragedy continues to unfold.
None of us even wants to imagine what such an experience would be like. Yet, I suppose that for many of us those thoughts have come anyway. “Schools are supposed to be safe places,” we say to ourselves. Yet, we continue to see violence infiltrate even there. I don’t think that any of us could be blamed if we’ve felt a little bit insecure—a little bit vulnerable—over the past day or so. When violence hits a place of such common experience among us, we cannot help but recognize the unsettling truth that we, too—however unlikely it may be—are vulnerable to experiencing the same thing.
And so we come here this weekend with heavy hearts for our brothers and sisters in
Connecticut, perhaps hoping we’d receive some words of consolation from the liturgy. Yet instead of words of deep consolation, the Church—as if she had just come down off of —says to us, Gaudete! (that is, Rejoice!). She even calls us to break our more sober manner of preparation by encouraging us, for a moment amidst this season of Advent, to remove our somber violet and put on a more festive rose, as if this were not a time of tragedy, but a time of celebration. Mount Oblivious
We live at this moment in the context of great tragedy and the liturgy tells us to rejoice. What, then, can that mean for us? That we should rejoice at tragedy? Of course not! We do not rejoice in tragedy. In what, then, do we rejoice? My brothers and sisters, we rejoice in hope: for Christ, our hope, is not only coming, but has already come, and he is here with us as we journey towards him, even in the midst of sorrows.
My brothers and sisters, the liturgy reminds us that the lens with which we must interpret every event of our lives—both individually and communally—must be the Paschal Mystery of Christ: for in his life, death, resurrection, and ascension he radically transformed the meaning of human suffering and infused it with hope. Hope that suffering and violence and sadness and pain are not all that we can look forward to in this world. Hope that a life of peace and joy and communion awaits us… And so we live in this tension: the tension between the “already is” and the “not quite yet”. This beautiful, yet painful, tension of grasping with whole hearts at the life that has been promised us while at the same time we are being bruised and battered by the storms of life that surround us. The tension that today makes us cry out with full-throated authenticity, COME LORD JESUS!!!
My brothers and sisters, it is tragedies like this that remind us that the mystery of life is still far beyond our ability to penetrate it, and thus that we need the help of Another to save us from despair. And so we come here today to remember. We remember that this Other has come: Jesus Christ our Lord. And we remember the hope of the Cross: that when all seemed lost, it wasn’t. And we remember that our Other is still yet to come to rescue us and bring us home.
“But what,” perhaps you are want to ask, “then should we do?”
Well… we pray. We pray for those who have lost loved ones in this attack. We pray for the community of
Newtown that has been rent asunder by this violation. We pray for the family of the attacker, and for the attacker himself… that’s God’s mercy would be upon them all. Let us also pray for ourselves, that would have the grace to reconcile ourselves to God and one another without delay: because regardless of all of the reasons people will conceive as the reason for this violence, the foundational problem underneath it all is our inability to be reconciled.
My brothers and sisters,
Saint Paul reminds us today that “the Lord is near.” As this Advent season continues, let us not fail to seek reconciliation, and care for one another: for although today we may not be joyful, we can still rejoice in God’s mercy. If we can do this, then, as Saint Paul also says, “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord;
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.
May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Given at All Saints Parish:
– December 15th & 16th, 2012 Logansport, IN