Monday, November 28, 2011

Daily Advent Inspiration

Let us go
rejoicing to the house
of the Lord.
Transcript of homily recorded on Monday, Nov. 28, 2011

Daily Advent Inspiration for Monday, Nov. 28, 2011 (Monday of the First Week of Advent)


By Father Perry D. Leiker


Well, here we are, the first Monday of Advent, we jump in with both feet. We get these readings filled with promise and with prophesy and with hope.

In the first reading, we're told that peoples from east and west — from all over — all nations will come to Jerusalem to the high mountain there to meet the Lord. That means not just Jews; people from everywhere, from every faith, will be drawn to God. And then we're told that this would transform people so deeply that their weapons of war would become instruments of cultivation for food and for hope for the people. The swords will be beat down into plowshares so that instead of fighting and killing, it would provide food for the people. Their spears would be turned into pruning hooks to prune the trees, and to make them bear fruit, instead of killing and fighting. And then the last line says, "One nation shall not raise a sword against another nor shall they train for war again."

When the messiah comes, they all believed, people would be transformed into a people of peace. It would be a new world, [a] completely new world. And then we kept, again and again, "Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord." And we have this great sense again that the Lord would call us and transform us.

And then we jump to the messiah himself, Jesus. And he has an encounter, not with a Jew, not with a fellow man of faith, but with a Roman centurion who had obviously been watching Jesus, who had obviously heard the stories of his healing power. And this man who did not share the faith of the Jews went up to Jesus and asked a favor, asked him to heal his servant; and Jesus, typically, he said, immediately I will go and cure him. And he said: "Oh, Lord, not worthy that you enter under my roof; just say the word." This man understood authority and power, and he understood that this man of power didn't need to go there and personally he didn't feel worthy, didn't feel that he had the right to ask him to come into his house. He just wasn't worthy.

And then Jesus does this remarkable thing: he turns to his fellow Jews and makes this unbelievable and embarrassing statement: "In all of Jerusalem I have not seen faith like this. In my own people of faith, I have not seen faith like this." So what could this possibly mean for us? Well, it means a whole bunch of things.

Jerusalem.

Jerusalem the holy land. It's the home of three great faiths: the faith of the people of Islam, the Jews and the Christians. Now, interestingly, I lived with a priest who grew up in Hungary and he was imprisoned, actually. He had horrible experiences with the communists, and in fact, on one Pentecost, I decorated all the church in red, and he said, "Please, Perry, take it down, take it down!" I thought, "What on earth?" And it reminded him so much of the communist rule, he couldn't stand all that red in the church so I had to take it down; he was the pastor. But he said, because he was stationed in Jerusalem for a time, he remarked on how the holy land was the most unholy place when it came to religious people. And he said that, of course, not only did the Jews and the Muslims and the Christians argue and fight, but even the Christians would fight the Catholics and other Christians. He remarked on one occasion, he went to a celebration to a site that was held by the Catholics and other Christians — it was sacred to both — and they both were beginning ceremonies, and he said, in the end, they started fighting, the people in the procession. And the people with the crosses — with the processional crosses — started swinging them, fighting. Now wasn't that a beautiful testimony — people of faith, fighting with their processional crosses? The holy land. The holy land.

So what with all of these promises the messiah will come and the whole world would be transformed, it just goes to show you, not only is it about transforming a world — which is miraculous — but transforming each one of us. That each one of us — like this centurion — would see this Christ and, with a kind of humility, which is, I suppose, why they wanted us to return to the Latin text right before communion — "I'm not worthy that you should enter my roof, Lord" — and yet he comes into our body. We feed on him and drink of him.

Spiritually speaking, we need to, on one hand, say, "I'm not worthy that you should come to me," and then just be filled with gratitude that he does and allow that grace and love of Christ to be a transforming power in our lives.

So here we are, the first Monday of Advent, we jump right into it. We don't waltz in slowly. We recognize that God will call people from everywhere, and he has. The majority of the church became Gentile, not Jewish. And he's called us from every nation; and we are in every nation. We're all over the world; it's a universal church, as are so many of the other churches.

But we come with the hope that this word will be true in each one of us. And we come with the hope that, as we share Advent together, that our church — our people, the people of God, the people throughout the world — will be transformed, too, not just as individuals (it has to start there), but also as a people. And what a wonderful gift if, as we get closer to Christmas this year, that our church in visible, observable ways, could be said to fulfill these readings just a little bit more. Not totally, just a little bit more. That we are more a people of God, more a people who recognize the messiah, more a people who are ready and willing and desirous of moving away from war to peace. Maybe, in some way, just the fact that at this Christmas many, many more of our soldiers will be coming home. Maybe this will inspire us to desire more deeply peace throughout the world.

And if, like every year that, as long as I can remember, I guess, people stop fighting on Christmas Day, even people who aren't Christian. For some reason, they respect that day. And I believe crime goes down horrifically on that night. For some reason, even our criminals say, "You know, it's Christmas. Come on. Have a little decency." But maybe it will permeate a little more deeply if you and I together will work for peace, will work for peace, to stand up and say, "Enough!" And we will, in our own way, beat the swords into plowshares. Rather than cultivate war, cultivate peace.

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