2nd Sunday Advent B - Homily 1

Homily 1 - 2005

Advent presents us with the image of John the Baptist, an ascetic, an eccentric, a wild man, a man with something burning in his breast that led him to cry out for change.  Yet, as far as Mark is concerned, he is a man with no message beyond that: without a vision, without an answer to his own questioning spirit.  He looked for another, more powerful, more in touch with the Spirit of God, the one who could diagnose the unease and lead the way forward.  John proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin.  Apparently he was horrified by the mystery of sin as it took shape in his world, in his time.  He saw the need for things to be different, for people to change, if the world was to experience freedom from the destructive attitudes, interactions and structures to which they were captive.

Do you feel something of the horror of the sin of the world?  People lost, adrift, fearful, despairing, addicted to distraction, some unable to enjoy themselves unless drugged out of their minds.  

What are we doing to each other?  Violence is everywhere: Already there are apparently 100,000 abortions each year in Australia, and some want to introduce a drug that will make them even more numerous.  What does that say about the complicated mix of sexual attitudes, domestic violence, self-interest, economic pressure?  Legal systems, some of which boast of the rule of law, kill the ones who break the law – whether it be in Singapore, Indonesia, China, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia or even the United States, where last week saw the thousandth criminal sent to the electric chair, the great majority of those thousand poor and black.  Apparently about half the people on talk-back radio last week supported the hanging of Van Nguyen.  Nations wage war for the sake of peace, kill for the sake of security.  And behind it all, the millions who die each year from hunger and hunger-related diseases, locked into oppressive poverty to ensure the standard of living of the privileged minority, to which we belong.

Perhaps we all feel something of a “horror overload”, and have learnt to immunise ourselves against it.  We can’t even talk about the real world constructively – our culture’s conversation is too often “bread and circuses”.

John the Baptist had enough of the sin of the world.  But he refused to be locked into despair and certainly not into distraction – he would not accept that sin was inevitable.  John hoped - and from that hope, he cried out for change, for repentance.  It was not that he was the supreme optimist.  From the years alone in the wilderness, he had got in touch with his depths - that point of his soul where he connected with the divine energy we know as God.  He experienced his own yearning for the transcendent.  He learnt the radical possibilities for good in our world if only we can connect with our God.  Because he didn’t see things clearly, he looked ahead to another more in tune with the heart of God – to Jesus.

Jesus has come into our world.  But his coming has brought no “quick fix”.  Jesus’ way is not the way of imposition, of solution from above, of coercion.  It is the way of cooperation, of conversion, in which each of us needs to participate freely.  The journey that begins with the ability to name horror for what it is meets hope; and that hope leads, on our part, to commitment – to move, to speak out.  As Jesus says elsewhere: The harvest is ready but the labourers are few.  Come, Lord Jesus!

As we move now into Eucharist, we recognise the Christ present in our midst.  He has spoken to us through his Word.  He has encouraged us through each other.  He will offer us, with himself, in quiet trust to his Father.  He will in fact become our food and drink – nourishing and strengthening us to be his promise of hope to a world in need.