Weekly Homily from Fr Jim Hogan, Second Sunday of Advent, December 4, 2016

•Isaiah 11: 1-10 + Romans 5: 4-9 + Matthew 3: 1-12•

Weekly Scripture Readings: Second Sunday of Advent

Ring the bells that sdtill can ring.                                                                                         Forget your perfect offering.                                                                                                  There is a crack in everything.                                                                                               That is how the light gets in.

Those words are from the song titled: “Anthem” written by Leonard Cohen. He died several weeks ago.

The results of our recent presidential election motivated me to reintroduce that refrain to you. I am using it as a mantra in my own Advent prayer and as a recurring motif in my Advent homilies this year. Maybe you would like to memorize the words and use them in your own Advent prayer. Here they are again…..

Ring the bells that sdtill can ring.                                                                                  Forget your perfect offering.                                                                                           There is a crack in everything.                                                                                        That is how the light gets in.

The gospel text for this Second Sunday of Advent brings John the Baptist forward to center stage. John was a “crack” in the social structure of the Palestine of his day. He recognized that structure was broken and he called his peers to “repent,” to “prepare the way of the Lord.” He was anticipating “The Reign of God” — “God’s new reality” to emerge in the coming of Jesus.

Matthew tells us John was “a voice crying in the wilderness.” The wilderness is a harsh and broken place. Perhaps that environment led him to set before us such a fearsome, punishing image of God.

That image affects all of us still and distracts us from Christ. In my youth, I sat through many hellfire sermons and listened to all the warnings as if they were direct communication from God. Today some preachers still remain obsessed with sin and repentance instead of setting people free to grow into the fullness and maturity of Christ.

There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.” John was that sort of “crack” in the social-religious fabric of his time. He said, “prepare for the one who is coming after me,” — the one who now lives in us, and we in him! He realized that “the way things were, was not the only possibility.” The Gracious Mystery we name God “had something better in mind, and still does.”

We have been shown that something better in CHRIST! Yet, our world continues to be broken. Perhaps you perceive, as I do, that the results of our recent election are symbolic of that brokenness. There was little or no compassion evident in the campaigns. The vote of a large percentage of Catholics tells me that most of us still have no appreciation of what John meant in proclaiming “the kingdom of heaven is near.” It seems we Catholics still embrace a religion of authority rather than a religion of compassion.

The current Bishop of Rome, like John the Baptist, is convinced that Jesus of Nazareth is the largest “crack through which the light gets in.” Francis repeatedly speaks of those on the margins of society. He reminds and challenges those of us claiming to be “Christians” to place the poor and broken at the center of our religion. There certainly was no evidence in our recent elections that we are listening to Francis or the gospel!

Advent is so timely this year! Advent provides opportunity for us to refocus on and reclaim our center — Jesus whom we name the Christ. He was, is and will ever be our loving brother. Through him we perceive the deepest mystery of our living. He is the One who illuminates our path as we navigate our way home. His Spirit within inspires our thoughts, words and deeds to turn the world around and upside down. His life and teaching are the “crack through which the light gets in.” It is the light of that Gracious Mystery we name God.

I hope you are among those for whom the darkness of the current political transition is unsettling or frightening. If you find it so, you may find it helpful to focus your personal Advent prayer on the wisdom expressed in the words of Leonard Cohen.

“Ring the bells that still can ring.                                                                                  Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.                                                                              That is how the light gets in.”

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