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Caution: Putting a Sunday homily on the Website is tricky business. All the viewer has is a written text. A homily, on the other hand, is "an oral event". It may not have been said or heard the way it was written. In addition, a roughly ten-minute homily is part of a roughly one-hour worship event in which God and God's people communicate with each other by means of ritual, symbol, song, proclamation, prayer. Not everything in these homilies is original. As a homilist, I rely on and at times borrow from other homilists and writers who are not properly mentioned in this format. I am often indebted to them.

Father William Marrevee, s.c.j.

2nd Sunday Advent B

At the entrance of the church a portrait of our world, of our human condition: wilderness, chaos, disorder, not a pretty picture.

We bring that before our God. We would like to know what God thinks. Would he go at it with a vengeance, put every body in their place? Much depends on whom we listen to or take as our guide. But if we listen to reliable and authentic messengers of God, the voices of God who cry out in the wilderness and address our wilderness in today’s Scripture readings Isaiah, Peter and John the Baptist – then God’s reaction to our human condition is marked by mercy, compassion. At the heart of God is mercy, compassion.

Listen to Isaiah: “Comfort, O comfort, my people, says your God.” God is so completely and utterly merciful that God would feed us, lead us and even carry us, like a shepherd leads, feeds and carries the lambs. “Here is your God.”

And in the second readying God is described as patient, filled with a patience that is deeply rooted in God’s mercy. In our impatience we might love to see God get impatient and obliterate the bad guys. That would go against God’s character, which is marked by patience and forbearance for all people, even those we consider beyond redemption.

And then we turn to that third voice of God in our wilderness, John the Baptist. Yes, he is that strange and forthright character who challenges us to seek to be the people God calls us to be. But that wake-up call to us is secondary to what John has to say about God, about God’s ultimate purpose which is the forgiveness of sins which, in turn, is rooted in God’s mercy and compassion. In sharp contrast to the wilderness of hatred and violence that we have made of our world stands the power of God’s mercy and compassion.

That quality of God has not remained at the level of ideas, concepts, feelings, but has taken on flesh in Jesus. In Jesus, the merciful, compassionate God has become Emmanuel, God-with-us, has entered our wilderness to provide us in Jesus with a path through that wilderness, to be freed from it and to overcome it.

The hand that God offers us in our wilderness is Jesus. By accepting that hand, by walking the path of Jesus we find a way through the wilderness; we find a way to overcome that wilderness. Letting ourselves be touched and transformed by God’s mercy embodied in Jesus we become a hope-filled people, a people who lead lives of holiness and godliness, thus hastening the coming of the Day of God. And it is God’s merciful and compassionate promise that that day will be a day of salvation, of life.

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