Spirit in the City

  • Full Screen
  • Wide Screen
  • Narrow Screen
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Mass Times

  Sacred Heart St. Paul's Kateri Centre
 Sunday 09:30 AM 11:00 AM 11:00 AM
 Monday - Friday 08:30 AM
11:30 AM*
 Saturday 09:30 AM  -

*  Except Mondays

ADVENT 3rd B Dec 11 2011

E-mail Print PDF


Henri Nouwen was once asked: “Are you an optimist?” His reply: “No, not naturally, but that isn’t important. I live in hope, not optimism.” Advent is waiting in hope! Hope is precisely that, a vision of life that guides itself by God’s promise, irrespective of whether the situation looks optimistic or pessimistic at any given time.
Hope is not simple optimism, an irrepressible idealism that will not let itself be defeated by what’s negative; nor is it wishful thinking; nor is it the ability to look the evening news square in the eye and still conclude, realistically, that there are good reasons to believe everything will turn out well.

Instead, hope looks at the facts, looks at God’s promise, and then, without turning away from the evening news, lives out a vision of life based upon God’s promise, trusting that a loving, all-powerful God is still in charge of this world.
“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” The message of this Third Sunday of Advent is simple: Our lives must lead others to rejoice in the Light.

“There was a man sent by God to give testimony to the Light.”

In the face of racial injustice, people of faith in South Africa began to pray together and, as a sign of their hope that one day the evil of apartheid would be overcome, they lit candles and placed them in their windows so that their neighbours, the government, and the whole world would see their belief. And their government did see. They passed a law making it illegal, a politically subversive act, to light a candle and put it in your window. It was seen as a crime, as serious as owning and brandishing a gun. Even the children understood the power of this hope expressed in prayer and action. At the height of the struggle against apartheid, the children of Soweto had a joke: “Our government,” they said, “is afraid of lit candles!”
It had reason to be. Eventually those burning candles, and the prayer and hope behind them, changed the wind in South Africa. Morally shamed by its own people, the government conceded that apartheid was wrong and dismantled it without a war, defeated by hope, brought down by lit candles backed by prayer. Hope had changed the wind.
The smallest light conquers darkness and cannot be quenched. But perhaps you have found, at least sometimes, the comfort that quiet night can be, a time for rest, to make us ready to behold the light however slight it may be. If so, you know already the experience of Advent. A quiet peaceful waiting. But at other times the darkness may cause us to fear and panic. Once again it is the peaceful rocking loneliness or the panic roaming in the night because I cannot sleep; the disquiet, the anxiety..

In our gospel today, the people are hungry for daylight. “Are you the light?” they shouted to John. Will you “bring glad tidings to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and release the prisoners” No, he replied, “I am pointing you toward the light. He will be here soon.” . . .

During the season of advent, Christians are asked to light candles as a sign of hope. We need to reflect on this practice that is ritualized in the lighting of the candles in the advent wreath. The lighting of a candle in hope is not just a pious, religious act; it’s a prophetic one, more powerful to transform than brandishing a firearm. It is a beacon giving us confidence and the “certainty of things to come.”

Fr. Brian Ballard was an Oblate Priest working with me out of Fort St. James with First Nations Reserves. He was a pilot who flew in the winter on skis. On one trip he had gone for several days to Takla and was returning to his base one evening at Fort St. James. When he left Takla the weather was fine but you are in the mountainous terrain so things can change quite quickly. When he arrived over Fort St. James the whole area was socked in with clouds. He flew by sight as most little planes are not set up with sophisticated flight instruments. He couldn’t risk going through the cloud as he could very easily plow into Mount Pope a local mountain. He did not have enough fuel to fly to a further airport. He circled around and around expectantly searching for light until finally he saw a speck of light through the clouds. He dove for the light and when he got through he quickly tried to find his bearing and flew low following the river to the airport. Just a momentary flash of light was his salvation. He since that time lost his life along with Ivan McCormack in a plane crash in the Rockies due to a structural defect in the plane’s wing.
To light an advent candle is to say, in the face of all that suggests the contrary, that God is still alive, still Lord of this world, and, because of that, “all will be well, and all will be well, and every manner of being will be well,” irrespective of the evening news.

Jesus stands among us. He stands among us just as he stood unrecognized among those priests and Levites. He is here as a hidden presence. Be aware of his hidden presence and you need not succumb to the fear when you face crisis in your own life.

The message of today’s liturgy is clear. The salvation we await with joy will liberate both the individual and the community, and its special focus will be the poor and lowly, not the rich and powerful. But you and I are among the poor. We are impoverished, not only in the matters of our unfulfilled desires, material or otherwise, but in the more secret matters of our personal vulnerability, our inability to save and heal ourselves, our utter incapacity to manage our way through life and love.
Advent is an extraordinary time, a time when the church asks us to pray, repent and wait with joyful anticipation. We too are captive:

  • unable to see our way out of failure,
  • by our betrayals and ego,
  • our fears that paralyze,
  • our attachments that hold us frozen.

O God, be with us, be our Emmanuel. Come to our poor inadequacy. Open our tired eyes. Free us—all of us. Unlock our hearts and minds.

For those of us who live in material prosperity,

  • there are other forms of poverty (social, emotional, intellectual, spiritual);
  • other forms of captivity (compulsions, obsessions, addictions, consumerism);
  • the blindness and of those who can see no real life meaning in what they pursue;
  • the dumbness of those who have nothing constructive or creative to say;
  • the lameness of those who are socially and emotionally crippled;
  • and the leprosy of isolation and loneliness in the midst of the crowds.

Lord, you bring glad-tidings to the poor. Let us hear. You heal the brokenhearted.
Heal us too. You free the prisoners from their jails. Free us from ourselves,
Loving God. Please come to us, and send us out, forgiven,
to the poor, the brokenhearted, the imprisoned.

You are here: Sunday Homily ADVENT 3rd B Dec 11 2011