Note: I’m preaching at the Rite of Welcome for our parish’s RCIA candidates tomorrow, so this homily (by necessity, shorter than usual) is primarily for them.
We find ourselves on this second Sunday of Advent in the desert, hearing the voice of one crying in the wilderness. “Prepare the way of the Lord!” Make straight his paths. Valleys will be filled, mountains will be leveled.
What John the Baptist is talking about requires more than a shovel and a big earth mover. He’s talking about the geography of our hearts. As we get ready for Christmas, for God coming into the world, we need to make our hearts accessible. Tear down barriers. Simplify what we have made complicated.
Of course, once we remove all those obstacles, we make it easier to see the world around us.
We also let in more light.
And that, after all is what we are waiting for, what the world craves during this bleak time of the year. Light.
We need it. Now, more than ever. As we saw last week, in the tragedy of San Bernardino: we are a world being overwhelmed by darkness.
We live in an age when mass murder is being committed, again and again, in the name of religion…when politicians and the press ridicule faith…and when a new phrase has become part of the American lexicon: “prayer shaming.”
But at a moment when religion is being debased and devalued, when faith is being belittled, I look out at our candidates and catechumens this morning, and see something else.
I see hope.
You are a great sign to the world.
Moments after you entered this church, you were asked a question, “What do you ask of God’s church?” And you offered this simple, beautiful answer:
You may not realize it, but this is profoundly countercultural. I’d even call it defiant. It goes against prevailing attitudes in the world.
In a time of doubt…you are embracing faith.
In a cynical and disbelieving age…you are declaring belief.
In a world clouded by darkness…you want to bring light.
This is your calling. But it is, in fact, the calling of all of us who are Catholic Christians.
At the Easter Vigil, you will see that calling made manifest, as you receive a flickering candle and join all of us in carrying the light of Christ. That night this sacred place, as dark as a tomb, will become, literally, a thousand points of light.
We get a small taste of that now, as one by one we light the candles of the Advent wreath. As the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer, this wreath grows brighter. It becomes clearer: This is what defines us as Catholic Christians.
We seek light.
And we want to carry it into the world.
My friends in the RCIA process: our community is uplifted and enriched because you want to be a part of it. As St. Paul writes in today’s epistle: “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it.” We welcome you with joy.
I am confident of this, too:
In a broken and grieving world, you are signs of hope.
You remind us of Advent’s deeper meaning, this glorious truth: Light is coming.
So, prepare the way. Tear down the mountains. Clear the path.
Let there be light.
Let there be Christ.
Photo: Wikipedia Commons