Theme: ALL FLESH SHALL SEE THE SALVATION OF GOD
By: Fr Andrew Ekpenyong at St Mary Magdalene Cath. Church, Omaha, USA.
Homily for Sunday December 5 2021
1. Knowing where we are heading. A priest, while preparing a man for the end of his earthly journey through the Eucharist as Viaticum, got to the renewal of baptismal promises. Whispering firmly, the priest said to the dying man, “Do you renounce Satan and all his works and empty promises?” The dying man said nothing, so the priest repeated his question. Still the man said nothing. The priest asked, “Why do you refuse to denounce Satan?” The dying man said, “Until I know where I’m heading, I don’t think I ought to aggravate anybody.” Well, all of us here have renounced Satan and his evil, and we know where we are heading to. We are on a journey to Heaven. Advent and Christmas are great moments for acceleration in this journey.
2. Preparation. Last Sunday, the Scripture readings were focused on God’s promise of Christmas and God’s promise of the 2nd coming of the Messiah. Today, all 3 readings focus on preparation, my preparation and your preparation for commemorating the 1st coming of Christ at Christmas and preparation for His 2nd coming. The 1st reading and the Gospel call for preparation using the metaphor of road travel where obstacles are removed. In the 1st (Bar 5:1-9), we hear: “For God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, and that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground, that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God”. In the Gospel reading (Lk 3:1-6), John the Baptist, proclaimed: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Let’s begin with the high way of our hearts. Let us use this time of Advent to fill up the valleys of omitted good deeds, the missed opportunities to serve the Lord in those around us. Let us remove from our interior high-way, the mountains of sins, the hills of our numerous faults. Let us straighten the winding roads of bad habits, let us smoothen the rough ways of unhealthy addictions. Let us reconcile with God and neighbour so as to celebrate Christmas with pure hearts, and joyful hope for the 2nd coming. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#524) reminds us: “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming”.
3. Arrival. St Paul’s prayer in today’s 2nd reading (Phil 1:4-6, 8-11) is relevant not only for our preparation for Christmas 2021 and for arrival in Heaven, but also for our living in between. “And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ… ” May our priorities in the coming days, weeks…, truly allign with the values of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Lord of the cosmos and of history. You see, how St Luke mentioned some historical figures in order to date events around His coming: “In the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee…” Not surprisingly, events in history are now dated as either before or after our Lord’s 1st coming: BC or AD. Even the common era (CE) uses the same numbers as AD. For instance, COVID-19 for coronavirus disease 2019, affirms that we found this disease about 2019 years after the 1st coming of Christ. Since this pandemic has reminded us of our common human nature, let’s extrapolate the words of J. F. Kennedy beyond the regional relations he meant back in 1961: “Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies. Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder.” As the need for healing and salvation has joined the human family together, let us prepare our hearts to celebrate Christmas in ways that enable all flesh to see and receive the salvation of God.