Monday 16 December 2013

Homily 3rd Advent - Br. Simeon

St- Andre-Rublev's Saviour
Holy Redeemer

In the care of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order

Homily, 15th December 2013,

Gospel:  Mt 11:2-11

“A Crisis of Faith”.

A couple had two little mischievous boys, ages 8 and 10. They were always getting into trouble, and their parents knew that if any mischief occurred in their town, their sons would get the blame.   The boys' mother heard that a clergyman in town had been successful in disciplining children, so she asked if he would speak with her boys. The clergyman agreed and asked to see them individually.  So, the mother sent her 8-year-old first, in the morning, with the older boy to see the clergyman in the afternoon.   The clergyman, a huge man with a booming voice, sat the younger boy down and asked him sternly, "Where is God?"  The boy's mouth dropped open, but he made no response, sitting there with his mouth hanging open.  The clergyman repeated the question. "Where is God?"  Again, the boy made no attempt to answer.
So, the clergyman raised his voice some more and shook his finger in the boy's face and bellowed, "Where is God!?"  The boy screamed and bolted from the room. He ran directly home and dove into his cupboard, slamming the door behind him.  When his older brother found him in the cupboard, he asked, "What happened?"
The younger brother, gasping for breath, replied: "We are in real BIG trouble this time! God is missing, and they think we did it!"

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight O Lord my strength and my Redeemer. Amen.

There seems to have been the slightest hint of confusion among John the Baptist and his followers as to who Jesus really was. John, whose only home since childhood had been the open desert, was languishing in captivity in Herod’s dungeon cell and that was not an altogether nice place to be. John the Baptist, who had never known doubt, was puzzled and was having second thoughts about the identity of the Messiah because Jesus seemed different from what he had expected. Walled up in prison and waiting for a brutal and senseless death, he was wondering about Jesus because the truth and worth of his life’s work depended on an answer.

The tone of Jesus’ message, indeed his lifestyle, differed so much from his own that it raised some doubts and misgivings. Was Jesus really the Messiah or had he made a mistake in pointing him out? A stern and committed man, John had his own idea of how the Messiah would appear and expected his arrival with fire and whirlwind to crush the foes of God, shake off the rule of Rome and rid Israel of the Scribes and Pharisees. To his distress John was getting reports that Jesus was making no move in this direction.

Instead Jesus had embarked on a different style of mission and was turning out to be a substantially different Messiah than was expected. Unlike his recluse cousin, Jesus was mixing freely with his fellow Israelites and socialising with life’s losers, the down and outs of Jewish society. He was spending his days journeying through the towns and villages of Galilee, preaching not the wrath of God but mercy, healing, reconciliation, forgiveness and love. Great prophet though he was, John was experiencing a crisis of faith and could not grasp the true nature of the Messiah’s mission. Small wonder that he sent messengers to Jesus to enquire and find out who the Messiah was and why all these things were happening. Even though he was honoured with the task of announcing the coming of the Messiah, John was in the dark and couldn’t grasp the true identity of Jesus.

We can almost sense the exasperation and the frustration of John’s mind in the blunt question his followers put to Jesus. ‘Are you the one who is to come or have we got to wait for someone else?’ In his reply Jesus hearkens back to Isaiah who spoke of comfort, healing and love. ‘Just tell John that the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear’ and let him decide for himself and draw his own conclusions. Jesus is saying: ‘See what I have done, put your trust in me and don’t lose heart.’ The messengers return to John with joy and excitement at the good news that the Messianic age has dawned. The Messiah and Redeemer is in the world proclaiming that humankind can be saved and healed only by the power of God’s love.

Like John we experience moments of darkness, doubt, despair and anxious expectation as events in our own lives, or perhaps in the life of one of our children, do not work out the way we had planned. When our hopes are dashed and our dreams shattered, we lose heart and the feeling that we are living in a wasteland with a bleak future may tempt us to look elsewhere for meaning. When we have doubt God does not get angry with us but rather he wants to find a way to help us understand.  He wants us to find consolation.  The lesson for us is simple… It’s ok to doubt.

 At these critical times we need reassurance to continue believing that our individual path in life is a walk with God, that our future is in his hands and is perfectly safe in his presence. No matter how hard and rocky the road, once we let God into our lives we experience his strength and are surprisingly filled with peace, freedom and joy. Every challenge undergone, every test passed, every cross carried makes us stronger.

The message of Advent is that we should wait patiently for the Lord to come into our lives. Everything has its moment and being patient is part of the process of life. In a world filled with instant answers and quick fix solutions, it’s hard to be patient. However, you can’t rush nature and you can’t hurry God. He works in our lives in his own time and takes nature’s gifts and builds on them with grace.

With our co-operation he can heal our wounds, free us from anxiety and give us a peace that the world cannot give. Just as Jesus invited John to trust in him, so does he call on us to be faithful in our life’s work, and to trust in him.