Advent is hope: We have made our lives a desert —but God can make it bloom…
(CUSA) – The Church gives us advent as a time of spiritual preparation and understanding of exactly what it means for hope and prophecy to be fulfilled. The wreckage of our lives may be a desert but the solution here and forever is found in the Messiah.
This magnificent homily by Archbishop Thomas Wenski reminds us of where we have come from in spirit and where we can go if we allow God to work in us to free us from sin. He spoke these words at St. Brendan Church with the Knights and Dames of the Holy Sepulcher. Friday, Dec. 5. 2014. —Ed.
ARCHBISHOP THOMAS WENSKI—
In this evening’s first reading, God speaks through the mouth of his prophet Isaiah, saying: “But a very little while, and Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard, and the orchard be regarded as a forest! On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; and out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see.”
It is this promise of our God that inspires the hope of the Advent season. We await the birth of the promised Messiah who is to be born of the Virgin Mary. In Jesus Christ, God has come to dwell among us.
As Isaiah says, the desert will “bloom with abundant flowers and Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard.”
We should understand the image of the desert as descriptive of that place where God has not visited, where God is not to be found. But Isaiah promises that soon He is to come.
Advent is a time of hope. For God can come into the desert that we have made of our lives – and he can make it bloom once again. And doesn’t our world – our secularized world – resemble a desert – lifeless and sterile because God has been “exiled,” marginalized, pushed – as it were – to the far borders of our consciousness.
In the desert, the Hebrews wearied from their wanderings. “Frightened, weak-kneed and feeble,” they fell into idolatry – they worshiped a golden calf. Idols that people worship are blind, deaf and dumb – and so are the people who worship them.
As Pope Francis said, “the sin of idolatry stifles the truths of faith” – idolatry is fundamentally joyless and can only deliver counterfeits of joy.
Idol worship has not disappeared from human history – we just give new names to the idols and new forms to our worship of them. Let me quote from a homily Pope Francis gave last year. I think he offers what we could call a plan of action to follow during these days of Advent – as we prepare for Christmas.
“We have to empty ourselves,” he says, “of the many small or great idols that we have and in which we take refuge, on which we often seek to base our security. They are idols that we sometimes keep well hidden; they can be ambition, a taste for success, placing ourselves at the center, the tendency to dominate others, the claim to be the sole masters of our lives, some sins to which we are bound, and many others.”
These “idols” are what Pope Francis’ spiritual father, St. Ignatius Loyola, would call “disordered attachments.” (And you have an idea of what those attachments are for you.) These idols, these disordered attachments, crowd God out of the space he should occupy in our lives.
Isaiah says, “Out of the gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.” And in the Gospel reading, these words are fulfilled as Jesus heals two men of their blindness. Jesus of course healed many more who were blind; he healed the deaf, the dumb and the lame as well. He came to save us – and he continues to heal us, and to free us, from sin, from the enslavement represented by our worship of our modern day idols.
Freed of those deaf, dumb and lame idols, we will be freed of the deafness that keeps us from hearing God’s word; the dumbness that keeps us from proclaiming his praises; and the blindness and the lameness that keeps us from walking in righteousness.
Again to quote Pope Francis: “…I would like a question to resound in the heart of each one of you, and I would like you to answer it honestly: Have I considered which idol lies hidden in my life that prevents me from worshiping the Lord? Worshiping the true God is stripping ourselves of our idols, even the most hidden ones, and choosing the Lord as the center, as the highway of our lives.”
And such worship is the program for an Advent that will renew within hope and bring joy to our hearts and joy to the world.