2nd Sunday of Advent

2nd Sunday of Advent – 12-07-14

My sisters and brothers, it is so good to be here with you on this 2nd Sunday of Advent.  So good…

So for this 2nd Sunday, I have two words for you from all the words that were proclaimed from our readings from Sacred Scripture this morning.  Only two words which are repeated in various ways, using different images and spoken by different characters.  Two words…(long pause)

The first: FEAR!

The second: NOT!

All too often as Catholics, when it comes to sharing our faith, speaking about our faith, inviting others to consider our faith we are filled with FEAR – or at least some mild discomfort.

Is this as true for you as it is for me at times?  Yes, me, the professional salesman for Jesus.  What should I be afraid of?  Why should I be embarrassed?

Why should I ever hesitate to speak of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came to save sinners like me or like the checker at Ralphs or the barista at Starbucks, or the waitress at O’Blarney’s, or the guy in the service department where I get my oil changed, or the hundreds of people in the TSA line at SeaTac as I stand there in my Roman collar and my hands above my head in the scanner mindful that my pants are slowly slipping down my hips because I had to take my belt off?

Oh, I don’t know what, where, when or with whom you FEAR to share your faith but I have a hunch that you, like me, have let opportunities pass when “Where do you go to church on Sunday,” or “Yes, I’m Catholic” would be so simple instead of so terrifying a conversation starter.

This is one reason I am so grateful for the wisdom of the Catholic Church in MASS – to Make All Sundays Sacred – to come to Mass every Sunday so that we hear God speaking to us, encouraging us, guiding us, strengthening us to be who are called to be – disciples of Jesus Christ, modern day John the Baptists.

This is why we can’t stop at only one word on the 2nd Sunday of Advent.  We need two words for number two Sunday.  And that word is?  NOT!

Those two words need to be together.  That is how Isaiah the prophet wrote them – Fear Not!  Here is what he preached:

“Go up on a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news!  FEAR NOT to cry out, ‘Here is your God!’”

Mark begins his Gospel quoting Isaiah, “Behold, I am sending my messenger, a voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’”

This voice, this messenger is John the Baptist preaching and proclaiming a baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins.

He is out in the desert, out on the margins dressed like some crazy dude on some new diet fad of bugs proclaiming, “One mightier that I is coming after me.”

It is as if he is saying, “It is NOT about me.  I’m not the main attraction.  I’m just the warm up, the pre-act.  Something, some one way more important is coming.”

I ran across a guy named Halford E. Luccock.  Well, actually I ran across an article about him.  He lived from 1885-1961.  He was a longtime professor of homiletics at Yale Divinity School.  He was fond of saying that homiletics was about comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.

He reasoned that the Gospel we preach is supposed to be good news for the poor, the marginated, the downtrodden and a wake-up call for the rich and the self-satisfied.

He wrote: “It should never be forgotten that Christianity did not come into the world through the editorial page; it came through the news columns.  It was a news event – front page, stop-the-press, break into the broadcast – news.  Something happened!  The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us.

“The Gospel,” he continued, “ was first preached as news, good news.  Where ever it has been preached with power, it has been preached as news, the best news around.  When ever it has dwindled down to mere advice or become merely editorial Christianity, a good suggestion or idea, it has evaporated into a cloud as vague as fog.”

He wrote that in 1952.  How true that is ¾ of century later.  How many Catholics, ourselves included, has lost the power, the excitement, the hope, the thrill of the good news of Jesus Christ?

St. Mark begins his gospel with these words: “The beginning of the gospel (the good news!) of Jesus Christ the Son of God.”

Mark doesn’t mince words.  Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  He is not just some nice guy, some latest fad, some guru from the east, Hollywood, or Silicon Valley, Yale or the U.W.  He is not just some prophet like Mohammed or new age guide like Jayzee Knight in Yelm.

No, he is the Son of God, writes Mark, and we ought to pay attention for our own good and that of the whole world.

What are those two words again?  Please, let me hear them loudly and clearly.  FEAR NOT!

Those are our marching orders this 2nd Sunday of Advent.

Fear not to proclaim, tell, invite, welcome, encourage, open up to others and with others the GOOD NEWS about Jesus Christ, who he is for you and how Jesus has touched, transformed, shaped your life and has become your life, your GOOD NEWS.

How many missed opportunities there have been in my life where I did not share, I did not respond and out of fear of embarrassment, rejection, ridicule or whatever, I hid the good news of Jesus.  I sidestepped the opportunity.  I was silent too quickly.  I was no John the Baptist or Isaiah the prophet or St. Paul or St. Peter.

Therefore, as uncomfortable as it may be, I am so glad that Advent is here because I need this shot in the arm, this encouragement to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God by being good news and speaking good news to others.

To assist you in doing this, we have made up these Christmas Mass invitation cards that you can hand out and use to strike up a conversation with whomever, when ever and where ever you find yourself these Advent Days.  They are an invite with the Mass times.  Tell folks they are welcome to join us and that we would love to have them come and be with you and all of us.

So FEAR NOT to cry out, to be John the Baptist this Advent.  The cold, dark, self-centered, self-satisfied world needs the good news of Jesus Christ the Son of God and needs YOU to be his herald.

Those two words again: FEAR NOT.