2nd Sunday Of Advent – Year C
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: December 9, 2018
What will the world look like 20 years from now? What will the church look like 20 years from now?
I really have no idea! And I would be very suspicious if someone tried to tell you that they knew what it would be like.
Many grandparents and parents have a similar question about their grandchildren or children. What will come of my child who is struggling with depression or who has been recently divorced, or is struggling with an addiction. Here we often have to admit, we really have no idea.
One of my favourite prayers is a prayer by Thomas Merton, I can really relate to it. It goes like this:
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
This uncertainty about the future, about what God is doing, this doubt that we struggle with at times, is found in any honest life of faith.
During Advent we see John the Baptist and the great prophets of the Old Testament. They also did not know what God was going to do. They did not know how or when or what God was doing to do. They believed that God was going to do something, they were waiting and expecting the Messiah, the Anointed One. But, they did not know what or how this would take place.
So, the action of God coming in Jesus was not recognized by almost anyone, it was not expected, it was utterly surprising.
Today we also do not know how or when God will work in our world, in our church, in our own lives. The result can be fear, uncertainty, doubts. But, uncertainty and doubts are not a problem, they are not a sign of lack of faith. Uncertainty and doubts is simply the result of me not being God. You are not God so definitely will be faced with uncertainty and doubts.
What to do when faced with uncertainty, with doubts? We can look at what John the Baptist was doing. He called to the people to prepare the way of the Lord. They were invited to a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. In other words, they were to make an honest self examination. In this way they were to form a heart that was ready and open to recognize what God will be doing among us. For only a humble heart will be able to recognize the action of God in surprising and unexpected ways.
This past week our priests had an Advent Day of Prayer. The speaker quoted St. Catherine of Siena. I thought this was a sign to me as a Pastor of St. Catherine of Siena parish. One thing she was known for was the way she spoke to the Pope of the time who was in exile in Avignon. She wanted to encourage him to be courageous and return to Rome. In one letter to the Pope she said, “… I want you… to try to have a big heart… Develop a courageous heart grounded in true humility.”
As we listen to the call of John the Baptist to prepare the way of the Lord, it is connected to this call of St. Catherine of Siena to have a big heart. During this Advent we need to undergo an honest self examination, leading many of us to go to the Sacrament of Confession. In this humble self examination and forgiveness of sins, we will be able to grow a big heart, a courageous heart, an open heart that will be able to recognize what God is going among us, in our world, in our church, in our lives.
So, do not worry about being uncertain, about having doubts. This Advent work through humble self-examination and forgiveness of sins to develop a big heart ready to see and join what God is doing among us.