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2nd Sunday of Advent, Year C – Homily

2nd Sunday of Advent, Year C
Baruch 5:1-9
Psalm 126:1-6
Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11
Luke 3:1-6
December 6, 2015

Baruch writes to the people “Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery, put on the splendor of glory from God forever.

Why are the people wearing ‘robes of mourning and misery’?  Baruch is writing to them when many of the Israelites have been taken away in exile by their enemy, the Babylonians.  For this, the people are in mourning and misery.

Baruch tells them to put on the “splendor of glory” because God is about to bring them back.  God is going to restore the kingdom.

We have reason to mourn and be in misery.  Once again, there has been a mass shooting, this time in San Bernardino, CA.  Fourteen people are dead and twenty-one injured.

This alone is a tragedy but amongst the various stories that have followed it in the news is one that said that have been more mass shootings this year than days in the year (mass shootings defined as four or more victims).  That means there has been over 300 mass shootings this year.  This would seem to be good reasoning for mourning and misery.  I know I felt distress as I watched the news Wednesday afternoon.

These shootings are not God’s plan but God does have a plan and it involves us.  As Paul wrote to the Philippians, he referred to their “partnership for the gospel”.  We too are to be partners in the gospel.  Just as God had begun a good work in the Philippians and brings it to completion so will God do with us.

In face of these shootings we might think ‘What can I do?”  We might feel powerless.  Paul might have felt the same way.  Do you realize that Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians from prison?  He was in prison for promoting the gospel.  He could have readily said he couldn’t do anything but he didn’t.  He continued to do what Jesus asked of him.

So what can we do?  How can one person make a difference?

We need to increase God’s love in world.  Well, actually I don’t know as we can increase God’s love (after all, it is infinite) but we can work on our perception of the world.  We need to help people know God’s love.

We also need to change our perception that we are powerless to do something.  One person can make a difference, especially when we are not just one person but a community of believers united as partners in the gospel.

So what can we do?

What the world needs is mercy.  This might seem troubling because often our first interpretation of mercy is forgiveness so you might interpret what I just said to mean forgiving the people who carryout such shootings.  That is something we need to work on.  What does it even mean to forgive someone who has done such a thing?

We can also think of mercy for the victims and their families.  Those who were killed receive God’s mercy as those who survive do but the survivors also need our mercy.  We offer them spiritual works of mercy offering them comfort and prayers.

What can we do to prevent more future shootings like this?

Again, we need to be a people of mercy.  We need to show mercy at all times.  As part of calling for a Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has written a prayer that includes the words “let the Church be your visible face in the world.”  We are the church.  We need to be, we must be, faces of God’s mercy to the world.

If we only think of mercy as forgiveness, we can wonder how we show mercy to people before they commit a terrible act.  As I have already said, mercy is much more than forgiveness.  It includes all the Corporal Works of Mercy and Spiritual Works of Mercy.  Our acts of mercy can help people to know that we love and care about them so they don’t do such things.

That being said, I believe our showing forgiveness to people before they do such a terrible act, can help prevent the terrible act.

How?

Acts like this often build over time.  Sometimes, it might relate to people’s mental status and there we show mercy by praying that we realize their struggles and help them to get the help they need.

I also believe we can help prevent the big tragedies by showing mercy in the little things.  We don’t know all the details of what happened in San Bernardino but we are told that the man had been at the party and left “angry.”

What made him angry?  I don’t mean just that day.  Something had to be building.  It might have started with something simple that wasn’t forgiven and grew into a fierce angry.  We need to show forgiveness for the little things.  Can’t we see it in our own lives?  We may keep things that bother us inside.  Sometimes this is the best but sometimes it is best to deal with the problem before it becomes worse.  We need to show mercy.

The world needs healing.  At the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII, spoke of the “medicine of mercy.”

John the Baptist was “A voice crying out in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord.”  Are you willing to be a voice crying out the message of mercy?  Are you willing not just to speak of mercy but to show mercy?  This is our partnership in the gospel.

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