Homily December 2, 2018
Notes for homily on Advent 1C, December 2, 2018
I am afraid of what is happening around us, right now. I bet you are afraid too. I don't even need a full-blown apocalyptic scenario. It's enough for me to witness what happens in Gaza, in Honduras, at the U.S. southern border, or how many homeless people walk into our gates on any given day during the week. My personal worries fade by comparison (where will I be in a few years? will I have enough money to live on?). Or do they? In reality they intertwine and create a lump of anxiety in my throat. At times, I feel chocking.
Is the world collapsing?
Is the nation collapsing?
Is this parish collapsing?
For each of these three situations we can find reasons to answer “yes”. I don't know whether this will be the final answer, but when one feels that one's own home is in danger of dissolving... the feeling is very real.
The Gospel of Luke tackles the issue of the collapse of the Temple,
of the collapse of the Jewish nation,
of the collapse of our home-world.
Luke does so in a very specific way, wanting to offer hope, a very strong one. “Remain confident, keep our heads up, your liberation is near, etc. etc.” But, in our context, how can we know that we are not preaching cheap grace?
Cheap grace = we do nothing and everything will be ok.
Cheap grace is not credible.
We may convince ourselves that is enough to say that we believe in Jesus,
that God will take care of everything,
but when anxiety eats us up from within,
we know that it is not a true answer.
In truth, I cannot tell you that everything is going to be ok.
I don't know if that's true, and it feels pretty irresponsible to say otherwise.
We need to dig deeper in the Gospel of Luke, rather than simply applying his words of consolation to our context. As our friend Simon Joseph has reminded us last week there are at least two ways of using the expression “the Son of man” in the ancient Christian sources, later collected in the Gospels:
- in the teachings of Jesus, when enemies dissolve into friends
- in the apocalyptic discourse, where the world dissolves and enemies are destroyed
In the teachings of Jesus, the expressions “Son of Man” is found in sayings such as:
“The Son of Man does not have a place to lay his head” (Luke 9: 58)
“The Son of Man has power to forgive sins” (Luke 5: 24)
“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10: 45)
Such sayings point to the nonviolence of Jesus: his teaching being the opposite of domination, his mission being liberating people from the heaviness of their sisn, his own being an itinerant teacher of nonviolence.
In the apocalyptic texts, “Son of Man” is the human/heavenly figure which comes at the end of time and is connected to the final judgement. This is the kind of text that we read today
in it we find also that the two uses are merged.
I suggest that the merge is found in this verse:
The skies and the earth will dissolve, but what I tell you shall not perish (Luke 21: 33)
What does not perish are the teaching of Jesus, the teachings of nonviolence.
Despite the certainty that our home-world will dissolve,
there are teachings that make a home for people.
In this place, we are home for each other.
Yes, we love our liturgy and our traditions, but they are only for us a vehicle; they make it possible for us to listen more deeply to the voice of Jesus, the subtle voice of nonviolence. This voice speaks to our hearts: when we are anxious and we want to react back... it speaks to us; when we are depressed and we want to carve in... it speaks to us; when we are tired or oppressed by many cares... it speaks to us. And it teaches always the same thing: that the Son of Man left his home, he did not even have a place where to rest, he was a migrant, he was a homeless person, because he wanted to make possible for people to become a family, to become home for each other.
To be home for each other in a totally different way from the one they once knew.
No more domination in this family, no more blame,
no more guilt, no more shame. No more.
No more enemies for this family.
Are the migrants and the homeless our enemies?
Do they threaten our way of life?
Surely they threaten our sense of security. But it is a false security in the world of domination, blame, guilt, and shame that the Lord Jesus has come to extract us from.
Our call is to love all people, and let the barriers of enmity dissolve.
At the beginning of this new Church year,
I ask that we as a community of faith take some new steps.
In my view, we cannot afford any more to keep our gates closed most of the time,
and we cannot afford anymore to be the best kept secret in town.
We have the faith of the Christian tradition, the real thing in all its beauty and its complexity!
The skies and the earth will dissolve, but what I tell you shall not perish.
We have the learning, and we have love for each other.
But now we are called to become home for many more, to welcome others in the home of love.