The three saddest words in Scripture, or in our lives, are. “We had hoped….” For these travelers, it is “we had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel.” “We had hoped,” but those hopes were dashed upon the wood of the cross and buried in a tomb. Now they are walking away from the rumors of Resurrection in a slow descent into despair. For years, the power of God had seemed so close. The disciples saw the miracles, heard the preaching, saw Lazarus emerge from the tomb, and so much more. Now it all lays powerless in the tomb. “We had hoped…” Continue reading
Last year, on a Delta airlines flight from Phoenix, a tragedy occurred. During the flight, one of the passengers suffered a heart attack. His wife called out for help. The trained flight crew responded as did a passenger who was a doctor. Another passenger attended to the passenger’s wife. He offered to pray with her, to pray for her husband, and he stayed with her as the tragedy unfolded. He stayed with her as life hung in the balance. He left the plane with her and collected her luggage. He carried their luggage to the car that was waiting for him and took the woman to the hospital. He stayed with her as a doctor broke the news that her husband had died. Continue reading
Well… the elections are done. Half the country celebrates, while half the country mourns. The Democrats will do a post mortem, regroup and get ready for 2020. The Republicans have the tiger by the tail…and now have to figure out what to do with it… as governance of a divided nation tasks them. Both sides can rightly say, “it ain’t over.” Continue reading
I had the weekend off from preaching – a nice gift every once in a while. This is a homily from 2010. I hope it touches a place in your heart.
Our first reading is gruesome: seven sons and a mother face death at the hands of the foreign king. A king who wants to bend a mom and seven sons to his will – who wants them to deny their faith in the God of Israel and in effect have them acknowledge the king as their lord and master. What drove their heroic courage? One of the brothers in the First Reading says it this way: “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him.” Their decision was driven by Hope, fueled by Hope and persevered in Hope. Continue reading
“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so; For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow Die not, poor Death…. One short sleep past, we wake eternally, And death shall be no more, Death, thou shalt die.” So wrote the 17th century poet John Donne about the freedom from the seemingly unsurpassable power of death and the promise of new life, eternal life at the core of our Easter celebrations. Continue reading
Lately, during weekday Mass celebrations, I have been asking people, “So…how’s your Lent going? Are you getting there?” It is just under three weeks until we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. So…. how’s your Lent going? A lot of the time people tell me that they have given up such and such for Lent and they are still good, sticking to the plan. That is a good thing. But I wonder, and often ask, “does that make room in your life for God?” Continue reading
As Christians, we live in the times between the great polls of our faith: the coming of Jesus in this world as the Christ child, the one who would secure our redemption by the cross and resurrection. And the other pole, the coming of Jesus as Lord of lords and King of kings to have dominion over all of heaven and earth. We live in the times between; times that are as normal as can be and times that are turmoil and chaos. And there are moments when we live in but a small segment of this universe. It is the betwixt-and-between times when there are moments we wish the world would end and there are moments that seems to be spinning out of control and we wish everything would just stay the same.
The in between times are filled with stories of families. With winter’s approach there will soon be a story in the paper about a family huddled around the gas kitchen stove on a winter’s eve because the electricity bill is unpaid and power is cut off. We already have stories of refugee families huddled in the mountains of Syria, seeking warmth against a biting wind, seeking to escape the wrath of ISIS. Somewhere there is a family huddled in the ER waiting room; their oldest child in an automobile accident, the surgeons coming to say, “We’re doing all we can.” Maybe it’s a love one huddled with their oncologist looking at the x-ray that shows those spots on the lungs that have return after years of remission. These are the moments you wish the world would end, at least the world as you now know it.
The in-between times are also filled with stories of the world that seems to be off kilter. After the attacks in Paris we are cautious, perhaps fearful to be in crowds. Did you see the incredible security at the Macy’s day parade and increased security at the malls. And as a nation we are now cautious about admitting Syrian refugees to our country; the very people seeking a new home, new beginning, freedom from the horrors of their homeland. We fear terror will slip in alongside them. Violence in our city streets and cyber insecurity are coercing us to consider forgoing our civil rights. These can be the moment you wish the world would stop remain the world as you know it.
These are the in between times. These are the times between the Christ child’s coming and the King who will return. Times that we are called to live in hope. To live in hope, because we know how the story ends. The ending has been written by the resurrected Christ. And yet we still fear, we know trepidation, and there is hesitation, avoidance, and the desire that it all just goes away. And so we wait.
Advent is the season of waiting. Yet is the season when our readings are filled with signs that will leave the world and dismay, perplexed, feeling trapped, and perhaps hopeless. Like the apostles, we want to know when all these things will happen. But the gospel message is different. If you listen closely to all the readings today, the message is “how will we live in the meantime? How we live in a time given us?” How will we live in the time given us?
Now that school has started again, I will take time to catch the final movie in the Hunger Games series. In case you are not familiar with the storyline, it takes place in a future in a land called Panem. Year ago the districts rebelled against the capital – and they lost. The ensuring 75 years have been ones of forced servitude, a police state, and minimum survival in the districts, while the capital basks in luxury and licentiousness. To remind the districts of their servitude, one a year the capital host the “Hunger Games.” It is a futuristic version of the gladiator games. Two people from each district compete. Among the 24 warriors, there is only one survivor.
The questions that looms over the people of the districts is how will they live the time given the. Katniss Everdeen lived her own life in District 12 until she is thrown into a larger world as a contestant in the games. In her first games the only goal is to survive. Which she does. What she wants most is to return to the world she knows, a world in which she knows the rules. She wants things to just return the way they were. She chooses to live the time given her as she had before.
But the manner of her victory in the games has given people in all the districts hope. As the President of Pane, Coriolanus Snow, notes, “Too much hope can be a dangerous thing.” Life chooses for her, she now lives a life in fear of the retribution by President Snow. She chooses to live in fear for her family, for the district, for herself. She lives without hope that things will change or improve. She fears that things will ever be the same. She fears the odds will never be in her favor.
Buried in today’s Gospel, there is a simple line that answers the question how we are to live in the meantime. It says stand up and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand. Over the course of the hunger games trilogy, that is what Katniss does. Sometimes reluctantly, sometimes heroically. She becomes the sign of hope for all the world to see in the simple gesture of hands raised in silence.
In time, Katniss chooses to live in the way that brings hope. She lives in a way that brings the light of hope into a world fraught with fear. She does not bring just a little hope, measured out and rationed. She comes to understand that without hope or too little hope, the world ends in a whimper or stay stuck huddled around a gas stove, huddled in the mountains of Syria, or forever in the emergency waiting room. Her extraordinary choices unleash waves of hope and begin to change the world.
We are called to bring, not just a little hope, but hope that is a writ large because of the life Christ. The kind of hope that create something new wherever it is sown. It is hope that fuels change in our lives, our homes, our parish, our communities and, our world. Change can be hard. But whatever hardships or limitations we may now endure, hope rooted in Christ creates face and a better future and leads one to act, to do something to bring about that better future.
Without hope life simply gets increasingly more difficult. With hope you can do extraordinary things because the future is not only open but also promised. It is a future fueled by the promise of Christ. It is a future that echoes with a refrain we will hear again and again during Advent and Christmas: be not afraid.
- A young girl named Mary will be not afraid and say, “be done unto me according to your word.”
- A man named Joseph will be not afraid and take Mary is his wife.
- Shepherds on a hillside will fear not and go to Bethlehem to see what has been promised and hope for.
- The refugee family will walk the length and breadth of the globe to see what has been promised and hoped for.
We say that Advent is a time of waiting. I am not sure that is fully correct. Advent is a time of Hope, time to risk extraordinary things, time to be not afraid. The time to stand up and raise our heads because our redemption is at hand. A season to be intentional about the time given us.
What extraordinary thing you this Advent because of the promises of Christ? Maybe no one in the world will know but you. Maybe the only person who will know is the one you reached out to. Maybe the whole world will hear about your extraordinary acts. Whatever the scope and scale, it is one act of hope that opens up a whole new world. One act that is fuel for change, fuel for goodness, all fueled by the promise of Christ.
This is Advent. Fear not. Stand up and raise you head, your redemption is near.
How will you use the time given you?
I am writing this on Monday evening. Such is the tyranny of bulletin production schedules. It has been a full day, a tiring day, but a good day. In the betwixt-and-between times after one late afternoon meeting and before a 7:00 pm conference call, I get to pause and think about the days gone by. What did I see and hear? Continue reading
I have been leading Bible studies for a long time now. I think the first one was in 1984. When I think back, it seems to me, that each time we study St. Luke’s account called the “Road to Emmaus” the same basic questions arise. “How could these two people, clearly disciples, people who may have followed Jesus for maybe three years – having seen the miracles, the mighty works, heard the preaching, seen Lazarus raised from the dead, and heard Jesus proclaim that he would be put to death and then rise – how could they then hear the reports of the empty tomb and then walk away in a slow descent into despair? Don’t they get it? How could they not get it? Where is their faith? It doesn’t make sense.” Continue reading
Good Friday has passed and now it is morning on the second day. And we wait, even as we are busy about things. This morning last vestiges of the sparseness of Lent and Good Friday will give way to the many hands readying our church for the Light of Christ to enter the main doors. And yet we wait. The Elect and Candidates of RCIA, along with their sponsors are waiting. They too wait. All filled with Hope.
“The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God… For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.” (Romans 8:16-19, 24-25) Continue reading