Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Daily Advent Inspiration

Transcript of homily recorded on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011

Daily Advent Inspiration for Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011 (Tuesday of the First Week of Advent)

By Father Perry D. Leiker

These scriptures today at the very beginning of Advent are just filled with hope, filled with hope of what would happen when the messiah would be born; and it focuses us very strongly on the meaning of Christ coming to the world, that the age of the messiah, finally, is to arrive, finally has arrived, and with it comes all the promise. We will go on later on in Advent and talk about the messianic promises of the "paralyzed will walk," "the blind will see," "the deaf will hear," etc., and all this healing and all this new life and peace and justice.

One of my favorite comedians — I know he's a bit demented, but he is a good comedian — Woody Allen, he likes to play with so many things, and among them he uses scripture and he quotes, for example, he says, quoting Psalm 23: "I will walk through the valley of darkness- no, no, no; I'll run through the valley of darkness — you'll get through it faster." It's a good insight. Who wants to walk through pain and struggle? But he quotes this section of Isaiah. He says: "The lion will lie down with the lamb, but the lamb won't get much sleep." Now that's a more accurate look. I mean, a lion and a lamb lying down? A child playing in the lair of adders and among snakes? Cattle and leopards eating together? The cattle will get eaten by the leopard. But this scripture is putting these opposites that, what usually would be filled with violence and death, become full of peace, because Jesus is going to come, this messiah, and usher in a whole new time, a whole new way of being. Kind of like man, woman have been destroyed and marred and defected by sin, but the time of grace will come and everything will be healed. Justice will flourish; peace will flourish.

Now, it begins today, "On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him; a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and [of] strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be fear of the Lord." Well, certainly this would be said of the line of Jesse; and certainly this would be said of Jesus Christ. But the truth is, this is said of everyone who's anointed in the Lord. And every one of us in this church, everyone baptized, is anointed, anointed with the Holy Spirit.

When King David was anointed, in order for them to appreciate, they had to use visual signs. Our roots come from the Jewish faith. Everything was visual, experiential. A lot of Christian faiths don't use symbols. We are enamored of symbols. We want to see Christ the light so we light a candle. We want reverence or fear of the Lord to be experienced so we bow and or kiss the ground. And all these symbols speak powerfully to us. So when David was anointed king, they wanted to ask God to anoint him with his Holy Spirit, pour God's Spirit into him. So they took a big vat of oil and poured it all over him, it dripped all over his body, covered him, because they could see the oil covering him. And so anointing him with oil was to visualize what they were really praying for and an anointing of the Spirit that he would be covered — completely doused — by the Holy Spirit, because they were praying that, covered with the Holy spirit, anointed with the Spirit of God, he could be a great king, a wise king, a holy king, a king of service, a king of love.

And this is what's happened to you and myself. Even though it happened when most of us were babies, we were anointed by the Holy Spirit. And if our parents and godparents did a good job (I'm sorry most don't) about this thing: convincing a child you belong to God. God fills you. You are loved. God's Spirit lives in you. You are a tabernacle, a temple of the Spirit of God. You are holy. Now, really. How many of our children walk the face of the earth believing, "I'm holy. God lives in me"? Most of them have been taught, somehow, that they're never living up to what God wants and they're sinners. But we are holy, anointed of God.

Now, tell me what works better: to walk through life, saying this: "I'm a sinner and I'll never please God completely. I have to beg God for forgiveness everyday" or "I'm holy, anointed by the Spirit of God. God dwells in me"? What's a better driving force? Yes, we're sinners, but we're anointed. God dwells in us. Where do we want to start? Well, this Advent opens the door. Read these scriptures. It's in the bulletin; take it home. Go on that Web site, USCCB, and go to Daily Readings. Read this first reading again. Read this psalm. Listen to the promise.

And you know, the Gospel, as often, is the key. It fits in the lock and opens the door, the truth, of this scripture today, because this is what Jesus says: "Only the child-like can get this" — unless we listen to this like a child, listens to mommy or daddy.

I like to tell people at baptism: If I took a child, 4 or 5, and I showed them pictures of the moon and I showed them what the moon was made of, and if I had actually had a piece of moon rock or dust that had been brought back by astronauts and some wealthy person bought it and gave it to me and I showed it to this child and I showed them the pictures, I gave them all the scientific data about what it's made of, how big it is, etc., etc., and I wowed them, I 'm thinking with the truth, the truth, that we have observed of the moon. And then I left the pictures there, I left the moon rock, and when daddy or mommy came home that night, they said "Daddy,  mommy, Father Perry was here! Look what he showed us! Pictures of the moon!" And they actually could say some of the data back. And then mommy or daddy just said this: "Oh, honey. No. Don't you know the moon is made out of green cheese? And there's a little man that lives in the moon. Come here, look" — and there's a full moon that night — "See the eyes? There's a man that lives in the moon." Who's this child going to believe? Mommy or daddy, who told a lie? Or Father Perry, who told the truth? Mommy or daddy. Not because they're right, but because they're mommy or daddy, and a child of 5 believes in mommy and daddy — not just what they say, but believes in them.And Jesus says, unless we listen to and believe in God like a little child, we'll never get it.

So I would suggest that like a little child, we read Isaiah again today. Like a little child, we revisit our baptism. You could probably find the rite online; put baptism rite for Catholics, and then read the rite, read the prayers. You are anointed. You now share with Christ as priest, prophet and king — all of you. Christ, the Spirit of god, dwells in you. You have been anointed in the Lord. Like children, we have to hear that. Like people of faith, we have to believe it. And, hopefully, this Advent will be a powerful — maybe a new — Advent, that we will come out on the feast of Christmas and believe that God really did become incarnate, he took human flesh and was born among us. But not only that, he's gotten into our human flesh and made us into people of grace.

Father Perry D. Leiker is St. Bernard parish administrator, reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112.

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