Sunday, December 8, 2013
Make room for God
HOMILY FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, December 8, 2013:
A number of years ago, there was a documentary called Untattoo You. This film told the remarkable story about an interesting program on the West Coast that offered to remove unwanted tattoos from the bodies of young people – their focus was helping young people escape from gang life and remove the tattoos that were associated with that way of life; tattoos that had literally physically marked them as part of these destructive groups. A surprising thing happened once the group started offering this service, though. Word got out and soon they were hearing from thousands of people from all across the country asking about the program. The film is told from the perspective of these young people; about how their lives got into these difficult places and about how difficult it had been for them to get out not to mention the challenge of removing the actual tattoos.
Although dramatic, the story behind this film gets at an important point in all of our lives – the simple reality that all of us have probably done something in our lives that we regret and would like to erase. The things that we’ve done aren’t likely to be as visible as a tattoo or as dramatic as getting caught up in a gang, but we all make mistakes or make poor decisions; we all say things we wish we could take back or have broken friendships or relationships that we wish we could repair. It is part of being human and sometimes we just wish we could make these mistakes disappear; that they could be erased. We’re looking for that program that will help us undo the things that we wish we could.
But, I think that if we take a moment to slow down this Advent Season, to listen to the words of Scripture and the songs being sung, to take a few moments out of the hustle and bustle that is this time of year, we might discover that this is in fact the very message of Advent. That it is the very message of Jesus. That it is what is offered to us every time we enter the Confessional; every time we gather around this altar for the Eucharist. Jesus is reminding us to welcome Him again. He is saying, “I am always right here to change your darkness into light; to change your sin into holiness; to change your sadness into joy. I’m here to make all things new for you.”
We hear that dramatic description of St. John the Baptist today: a voice crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Those words are being spoke to us, telling us to prepare once again; to ready our hearts that Jesus might find a home there; to clear the pathways so that He can enter in.
We’ve been so blessed these last nine months with Pope Francis who also sounds like a voice crying out inviting us to prepare. Just think of all of the wonderful, powerful things he has said and done. He has reminded us of powerful realities like the fact that “God never tires of forgiving us.” So, we should never tire of seeking out that forgiveness. And in his Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel issued just two weeks ago he said, “Now is the time to say to Jesus: ‘Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace’.”
So, as we hear the words of Scripture today, “Prepare the way of the Lord”, “Repent, for the Kingdom is at hand”, “The one who will come after me is greater than I”, what are we to do? Well, these words are meant for each one of us just as much as they were meant for the men and women who first heard them more than 2,000 years ago. These words, here today, are an invitation to each one of us to become new again in Jesus. To leave behind whatever tattoos, whatever marks, there are on our souls that we want to leave here – let God have them, let God heal them, let God change and transform them. As St. Francis of Assisi said, you should “Hold back nothing of yourself for yourself, so that He who has given Himself completely to you, might receive you completely.” Let’s leave it all here, prepare the way, make some room, so that Jesus in the Eucharist can fill you completely.
Let me end with another quote from Pope Francis. He said, “I have a certainty: God is in every person's life. God is in everyone's life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else - God is in this person's life. You can - you must - try to seek God in every human life.”
My friends, God is in our lives and He wants to be in it more and more and more. That is the message of Advent. To prepare ourselves because God is coming. Prepare ourselves because God wants to make His home with us, in us.
So, as we enter into this Eucharist today, let us open ourselves completely to Him. Hold back nothing of ourselves. Put all that we are – even and especially the parts we want to change – on the altar with the bread and wine and just as Jesus changes the bread and wine into something miraculous, let Him change you too into something miraculous - everything He knows you can be; the very person He created you to be.
May the Lord give you peace.