Homily – 2nd Sunday of Advent
“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, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the Glory and praise of God.”
This passage of Paul really rings true in my heart. Being a priest is a beautiful thing. Watching God work in peoples lives is to watch a magnificent drama unfold, full of beauty, joy and hope. In some ways I think every priest experiences the sentiments of Paul in his life. You don’t pursue priesthood without a love for God and his people. After all a priest is a mediator between God and man who offers sacrifice to God on behalf of his people. Therefore a priest can neither forget his God or his people and still be a priest in the truest sense of the word. Jesus summed up the commandments into two: Love of God and Love of neighbor. To focus only on one would be to neglect the other and that would not be Christian.
But what is Love? It is to will the good of the other even to the point of laying down ones life for them. This is the Love Paul has for his people and the love the clearly is overflowing the brim of his heart in today’s second reading. “I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you.” What does he ask for the people God has given him this great love for and entrusted to his care?
That your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception to discern what is of value. Love needs to be educated. It needs to grow in knowledge so that it can discern what is of true value. We need to understand what is truly of value in order to set our hearts on it. It is in this critical moment that the devil arrives on the scene to convince us what is bad is good and what is good is bad. He is the father of lies. Never will he say take this fruit and eat it because it will cause you misery and mourning; pain and endless torment. Never will he say choose to disobey God because it will hurt you and lead you to despair. Satan always tries to fool us into choosing something that is bad by making it appear good.
You should steal from the company because the money will bring you happiness. Theft will bring you happiness. You should have sex outside of marriage because the pleasure is the most important thing. Your body should be the object of someone else’s pleasure and their body should be an object for your pleasure. Other people should be used like things for your desires. You should lie, because if you tell the truth it will cause you pain and suffering and if you lie it will bring you joy.
No one sins because they think it will bring them mourning and misery. But in the end it always does. We become victims of the father of lies and our own choices to follow him and turn away from God to sin. He leads us into slavery and bondage. As the first reading says they are led away on foot by their enemies.
Often times, in God’s mercy, he lets use experience the results of our choices. And we see and feel the misery of turning away from God. Satan convinces us to turn away from the one thing that can make us happy and he does it by telling us we will be unhappy if we follow God. The father of lies. In our deepest moments of pain we cry out to God and ask his mercy. When we have experienced the fruit of our choices and the fruit of our sin we beg. We repent. The valleys of our heart are so deep and empty that we will let the mountains of our pride be leveled. That is John the Baptists’ message in our Gospel today.
John preached repentance and the need for forgiveness from our sins. In order to prepare the way of the Lord we need to make straight his paths. And then the valleys of our hearts will be filled with oceans of mercy and love. But only after the mountains of our pride have been leveled.
That is why Jesus gave us the sacrament of penance. The Sacrament of penance allows us to level our mountains of pride. How humbling it is to go before another person and kneel down and share your deepest failures. I know, as does every other priest. We sit and kneel on both sides of the confessional screen. We cannot absolve ourselves. What a deal that would be. No, we must kneel down and say forgive me Father for I have sinned. It has been 2 weeks since my last confession. My status in life is that I am a priest of Jesus Christ. And these are my sins.
That is particularly hard to do. To admit your stupidity and your failures when you clearly should know better. But the mountain must be leveled. So why can’t we just go to God directly? Why to another person? Remember what I said in the beginning. When we sin we sin not only against God but against our fellow humans. A relationship that consists of Jesus and I only does not satisfy the second of the commandments which is love an neighbor. God wanted us to go to others to have our sins forgiven. If he did not then he wouldn’t have given the Apostles the power to forgive sins in the Gospel of John.
That is why I want to encourage you once again to make sure confession is a frequent part of our lives. All of us should go during Advent. I am confident you will be thankful you did and I know that it is a good thing to do.
God knows what is best for us and he refuses to give us anything less than the best. For when the mountain of pride has been leveled then the Son of God can shine clearly on the plains of our hearts. And the deepest valleys of our hearts can be filled with the ocean of God’s love and mercy. For “God will be leading Israel in joy by the Light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company”. “And then our lives can be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.”
And that brings me back to the beginning and Paul’s prayer and a prayer that priests pray for their people often. “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, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths… and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

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