Has anyone ever experienced a disappointment?

Gospel of Luke 3:1-6

Has anyone else ever experienced a disappointment?  I have.

Speaking for myself I have a tendency to exaggerate the potential benefits of an anticipated experience, encounter, or event.  This is something I have done since I was a child.  I have a very vivid early childhood memory around a family trip to visit my grandparents who were living in Colorado at the time.  I remember being so excited about the visit that I had convinced myself that mygrandparents were going to meet us somewhere along the journey.  There is no rational reason for my expectation, but I do remember that every time we stopped, no matter the location, I fully expected to see my grandparents there waiting for me.  In fact, I had so convinced myself of this that at one rest area I ran up to an elderly couple crying out “grandpa, grandma” only to discover they were not at all my grandpa nor my grandma.  This particular experience embedded itself into memory not only because of the embarrassment I experienced, but more sodue to the disappointment.  I rememberbeing very disappointed that my grandparents had not “come out” to meet me…atsome random rest stop…100 miles from their home.

Unfortunately, that is not the last time in my life when I created and allowed unrealistic and fantastical expectations to distort my thoughts or dictate my behavior.  I have done this many times.  I have done this with jobs, promotions, vacations, with things, and I have done this, far too many times, with my relationships.  In the anticipation of something wonderful I have many times distorted that wonder with unfounded desires.

In today’s Gospel Luke confronts expectations.  He challenges his readers to examine their expectations about the Messiah.  The Messiah who was promised to restore Israel and save the world.  The Messiah that Israel and the rest of the world were waiting with great expectation.

Luke challenges his readers expectations by building a bridge.  A bridge that brought the prophecy of the Old Testament across the chasm of anticipation and places the realization of the expected Messiah in a specific time and in a specific place.  This bridge on which our expectations traveled is called John the Baptist, the desert voice calling Israel to prepare for the Lord’s coming.

In addition, Luke also identifies the geo-political and religious leaders of that time, thereby, establishing a marker, a moment, when Jesus Christ, the Messiah, began his mission.  His mission to fulfill all the promises of God.

What are these promises?  These promises are found in the words of Isaiah which Luke cites in his Gospel.  This central section of the Book of Isaiah, from which Luke quotes, has been titled by some scholars as “The Book of the Consolation of Israel.”  These consolations were given to Israel in a time of exile, a period of time when hope and expectation where all that remained of a once and great nation. These consolations point to an entire symphony of biblical promises to be fulfilled by the Lord.

The Lord will:

  • Rescue the poor and oppressed (Is 41:17; 42:7; 49:13
  • Pour out the Spirit (44:3),
  • Restore Israel (43:5-7; 48:20; 49:5),
  • Come to Jerusalem as King (40:9-10; 52:7-10),
  • Destroy his enemies (41:11-13; 47:1-15),
  • Show mercy to his children (43:25; 44:22; 55:7).
  • Be the Messianic Servant
    • whose mission is to bless the nations (42:1-4; 49:1-6)
    • atone for sin (50:4-9; 52:13-53:12)

All of the expectations, these promises, contained in the Book of Isaiah, which Luke so beautifully brings forward to a time and space when he identifies John the Baptist as the; voice of one crying out in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

Yet, what meaning can we, the modern-day followers of Christ, hope to find in this Gospel?  What can we, as believers in the witnesscarried down to us through the Apostles and Christ’s Church, hope to claim inthese promises?  I challenge you mybrothers and sisters in Christ that for us; because our faith is firmly founded in our Lord’s 1st coming, and that our hope blossoms in the belief that he is coming again, then our expectations for the future fulfillment of the promises of God are manifested in our actions.

Simply put… are you manifesting the promises of God in your life.  I ask you to examine your life in the light of the promises of God.  Are you responding to the poor and oppressed?  Defending their causes?  Does the goodness of God in you effect and impact the world around you?  Are you merciful?  Are others blessed by you and because of you?

Again, if we truly believe that Jesus Christ came once, as a man for mankind, and we rest our hope that he will soon come again, then ought we not be engaged in his work.  Our work is too continue the work to which we were assigned by the great commission of our Lord, to go and make disciples of all the world through the preaching, teaching, and most importantly living the Gospel.

As we enter into this Advent season

Gospel of Luke 21:25-28, 34-46

So… I did it.  Yes, indeed I sure did.  I went down a convoluted shadowy path this past week.  A path crowded on all sidesby misguided conjecture and fraught with misinterpreted prophecies.  A path inhabited by men and women, Protestantand Catholic alike, who boldly and unabashedly proclaim to possess the knowledge of the “truth”.  A “truth” that they claim has been revealed to them through personal revelation and is only given to those who are the “true” believers. This “truth” they claim?   The knowledge of the dates, times, and events pertaining the Second Coming of Christ.

My friends, I am confessing that this past week of homily preparation was not one of joy.  As I prepared to embark upon this liturgical season of Advent, I was overwhelmed by the negativity I encountered on full display in the internet world topic of “the second coming of Christ.”  Advent is, according to the Norms of the Liturgical Year and the General Roman Missal, “a time of preparation…, in which the First Coming of the Son of God to humanity is remembered, and likewise a time when… minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming…. “For these two reasons, Advent is a period of devout and expectant delight.” 

Delight was definitely not a term I would use to describe my internet experience. For me, the deeper I went into the world-wide web of end-times prophecy the more discouraged, depressed, and disheartened I became.   Global war, environmental disasters, wide-spread persecutions, and apostasy are not the preferred themes of traditional Christmas songs and Hallmark movies.  Yet, in today’s Gospel in Luke, this 1stSunday in Advent, Jesus is speaking to his disciples about these very same catastrophicevents.

It is easy to read this Gospeland then allow the political, natural, and religious events of our current day to darken our expectant joy and diminish our faith and hope in the Second Coming of Christ.  Even today we offer our prayers to those individuals, families, and communities whose lives and livelihoods were affected by fire and earth quake. Yet, despite the turmoil and terrors, we are instructed in today’s Gospel to “stand and raise our heads” in the wonderful anticipation of our promised redemption.

So…how do we rectify this apparent contradiction?  This contradiction evidenced by today’s Gospel and its warnings of trial, tribulation, tragedy, and discord in the light of Advent, a season of “devout and expectant delight.” 

We must first come to understand who we are as Catholics and what we believe.

Who we are?  We are the body of Christ with Jesus as our head.  We are the Church and there is no separation of Jesus and his church.  The church was born on Pentecost and has continued, and will continue, throughout the rest of history until the Second Coming of Christ.

What we believe? We believe that Christ is present in his Church.  We are not “dispensationalist”, nor do we profess “millennialism”.  Each of these fallacies deny Christ’s presence in his church and profess that the church will be “raptured” before the second coming of Christ.  The catechism clearly confronts these false doctrines, stating that “the final age of the world is with us” and “that Christ’s reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled… by the king’s return to earth.” (CCC 670 & 671)

My friends, we are now currently living in the end times… the last days!

This reality, the reality that Jesus Christ, through his birth, life, passion, and death has allowed us to become the children of God, co-heirs to the kingdom, is the very foundation of our faith and our hope.  Our hope that as sons and daughters of God, the Almighty, we will receive the promise of God, eternal life in perfect in love with our Creator and with his creation.

Yet, in spite of our belief in the promises of God, and the hope which is produced, I believe we, as the church, the body of Christ, have become drowsy and have succumbed to the anxieties of life.  We have allowed fear and sin to exist in our lives, and in turn have become apathetic, or at the very least dismissive, to our mission as ordained to us by Christ.

Today, in this country, the greatest threat to life is not war, pestilences, or natural disaster it is self-harm.  A recently published study by the Center for Disease control reports that the life-expectancy rate in theUnited States has decreased continuing a 3-year period of stagnation and decline.  The main reasons for this decline in life-expectancy?  Suicide and drug over-dose.

Deaths from heart disease, the number 1 killer of Americans, have leveled off. Deaths from cancer and other serious illnesses are in fact declining.  Yet, the average life-span of an American is decreasing, not for lack in advancement of medical science, but rather to loss of hope.

We, as disciples of Christ, members of his body, his church, have the cure to such an illness.  For it is hope that flows abundantly from the well-spring of grace which has been given to us without merit or measure by God, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are his ministers of grace and communicators of hope.

As we enter into this Advent season preparing our homes, our places of work, and our community to celebratethe 1st coming of Jesus, let us commit ourselves to preparing also for his second coming by standing alert, awake, and ready to be the agents of hope in a world so desperately lacking.