Here is the homily I was asked to give at the Advent Clergy Day for the Diocese of Winona.
God bless each of you!
Advent Day of Reflection for Clergy of Winona Diocese
December 17, 2015
Scripture: Isaiah 30: 19-21, 23-26
I asked you to listen carefully to this Scripture taken from the prophet Isaiah. I now ask you, “Is this the kind of Lord and God we want to come into our lives and rule over us? Is this the kind of God who we will take into our lives and into the world? Is this the God that we in our flesh will make present to the people of God to whom we are sent, a people who ache for his presence, even though they may not recognize him?
He is beautiful, is he not? He promises so many beautiful things, does he not? It is easy for us to say, “Yes! Come Lord Jesus into my life and into the world! Maranatha!” but are we really prepared to say this? We need to be careful and honest lest we speak these words without preparation and prayer. As all the saints attest, to welcome the coming of the Lord into our lives and into the world requires a spiritual suffering and purification. We too must suffer his coming!
So the question is, are we willing to suffer the coming of Christ into our lives and into our world? Are we willing to be sufficiently purified and emptied of all that would place an obstacle in his way? Are we willing to be continually attentive to the Father uttering his eternal Word into our souls and into the world in the power of the Spirit? Are we willing to undergo that kind of spiritual martyrdom that is required if we are to remain both present to the Father uttering his Word Jesus into our lives and simultaneously attentive to the people to whom we are sent? Or will we fall back into a lives of distraction, isolation, and loneliness, which are the breeding grounds of sin and keep us from the God who comes to save, from each other, and from the People of God?
We must remain attentive, alert, and receptive. We must be purified of our distractions, our sin, our isolation from God, each other, and the Church. We must be purified of our loneliness and our worldly attachments if we are to welcome the coming of the Lord.
I have become convinced, brothers in Holy Orders, that central to all of us who are ordered to the Holy by our sharing in this sacrament, is a spiritual martyrdom through a complete consecration to the Gospel and to the human condition. We must be radically configured to the incarnate Jesus as obedient sons of the Father empowered by the Holy Spirit and sent in service to the Church. But we cannot be so configured or sent without first having being purified from sin, from all that would distract us, from inner isolation and loneliness, i.e., those things that give rise to sin. We cannot be who we are called to be in Holy Orders, icons of Jesus Christ, if we remain in our sin, our loneliness, separation from God and from his people, from ourselves and from each other. We must be purified! We must suffer the martyrdom of the coming of Jesus in this way. We must be willing to let go, to shed all that hinders us from this purification and keeps us isolated and lonely. We must be purified, emptied, forgiven and vulnerable to his coming in the diaconal and/or priestly character impressed on our beings at our ordinations. The touch of the Father must remain in our lives. This is and will be a suffering, a spiritual martyrdom, for us all.
Advent, then, is not only a time of anticipation of the coming of the Lord and a remembrance of his coming as the Child of Bethlehem. It is also a time of suffering the emptiness that must be ours if we are to filled with him, the Word, who comes. We must prepare a place for him in our hearts and in our world.
Let us strip ourselves of all that would distract us from his coming. Most importantly let go of the loneliness which we have allowed to take root in our lives, especially our spiritual lives. We need to be with him. We must allow for a relationship with the Lord who comes. We must pray. We must seek forgiveness. We must also allow for relationship with each other and we must take the risk of relationship with those in need of God’s presence. This is the continual message of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, is it not?
We cannot lapse into a lonely self-concern or a clerical separation from the very people to whom we are sent, a people who are hurting far too much for us to be lonely and separated from them.
My brothers, we are to be the coming of the Lord in today’s world! We are the ones who are ordered to the Holy, i.e., configured to Jesus Christ, first as deacon in his diakonia, and then for some of you as priest or bishop, as victim and high priest. We must remain in relationship with the Lord who comes so we may bear him, suffer him, and present him to the world which desperately longs for him even though they may not know it.
We are sons of the Father! We must be attentive to the Father uttering his eternal Word, Jesus Christ, and filled with the Gospel and always available to being sent forth from the Father, as Jesus was sent. We must be filled with the coming of Christ into our lives, filled by emptying ourselves of distractions, isolation, and loneliness which give rise to sin in our lives. We must be filled with the Word of God, the Gospel, and then be available to the Father’s will for us in service to his people.
I repeat, we are sons of the Father! We as deacons bear the Gospel of which we are heralds and the servant mysteries of Christ in the Church; you as priests and bishop bear the sacraments and Eucharistic sacrifice into the world. We all suffer his coming. We all bear Jesus! Let us now be purified of our sin so we can be sent forth into the peripheries of the world to be a purifying presence to others.