What is the expectation in your hearts? The are three very different groups in today’s Gospel that come to John the Baptist: the unspecified, average people of the crowd, the publicly despised and sinful tax collectors, and the foreign Roman soldiers. As John instructs them, these people that have so little in common all come to the same shared desire: “the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ.” They didn’t come to John with that expectation, with that question of whether he was the long hoped for Christ… they just wanted to hear what a prophet would say they should do… but as John preached to them a message of repentance to prepare the way of the Lord, that message began to work in their hearts. It didn’t matter who they were or what kind of life they had before hand, as they began making any small step in their life to be ready for Christ their hearts began to fill with expectation to receive Christ.
What is the expectation in your heart? What have you been preparing your life for in the past few weeks of Advent? What the Church expects to us all to have found by now is the holy rejoicing of knowing that our expectation of Christ’s presence in our lives will very soon delight in remembering the feast of Christmas and his willingness to come into this world and share our life, and therefore the certainty of our hope that he will come again and that we will stand before him face-to-face. That’s why we light the Rose candle and call this is Gaudete Sunday – gaudete is a command for us to rejoice. But believe me I know that our lives don’t always match what the Church hopes for us and maybe you haven’t really found that rejoicing yet. Like Sunday I talked with you about how our modern society and we ourselves tend to put a lot of anxiety, stress, and business into the holiday season. Or let’s be honest… maybe we just haven’t cared to put any effort into this time of Advent and haven’t tried making any little steps to be ready for Christ. That disconnect is bound to happen as this world becomes a busier place for us all, filled with any number of distractions.
But look at the remedy which comes from St. Paul. “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your request known to God.” This is the advice that St. Paul gave to the Philippians in our second reading and it is a foundational explanation of what prayer is. Without anxiety, bring before God the hope of how much greater this Advent could be for you. Do it already rejoicing in the trust that God cherishes even the desire to desire Him. Let me give you an example of what this prayer is like:
“Lord, you are my God and you are my Lord, and I have never seen you. You have made me and remade me, and you have given me all the good things I possess and still I do not know you. I was made in order to see you, and I have not yet done that for which I was made… teach me to seek you, and when I seek you show yourself to me, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, nor can I find you unless you show yourself to me. Let me seek you in desiring you and desire you in seeking you, find you in loving you and love you in finding you.”
That prayer was written by St. Ambrose in the 300s. Even the prayer of a great saint is sometimes the honest longing of the heart, of a man who admits that he has not seen God, that he needs God to teach him to seek. What has been the expectation in your heart? Rejoice today… and pray that you might desire an even greater rejoicing.
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.