Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Daily Advent Inspiration

Break the news to
everyone we know,
let them know what
our God has done
for us.
Transcript of homily recorded on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011

Daily Advent Inspiration for Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011 (Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent)

By Father Perry D. Leiker

There's an old saying (well, they said it after the [Second Vatican] Council, so that's pretty old): "When Jesus was here on earth, he used to play with the children and teach the adults. Now the church plays with the adults and teaches the children."

If you look at where we put our money, if you look at where we put our time, everything is into the formation of children; and we forget the adults. The truth is, we let go of the children by 16, 17. Half of them leave them church and don't come back for a long time. They "graduated," they say. They maybe come back at marriage — maybe. I'm talking about big numbers. They have at the very best an adolescent education of their faith, a 15-, 16-year-old education. None of them have really experienced life. Some maybe have gone through difficulties with parents, divorces and things, maybe abuse. There's lots of things, but they don't understand it. They're kids; they're teenagers. So what do we do for you adults, 25 and up, and really challenge you to grow in your faith? We have very little. Very few adults go for any adult education, probably less than one or half of one percent. So we basically have an adult church that doesn't have an adult educated faith. They're adults in their heart, for sure, but adult educated.

Now, this is not a criticism, this is just a reality. So how do you teach adults? How do you get their attention? Well, I think you have to tell them God is powerful and strong; and if you sin, beware! Just like we teach kids. How do you keep a 4-year-old in bed, when the lights go out?

"OK, get out of bed, but the bogeyman comes around anyone who walks on the floor after the lights are out." Is it a good way of teaching — it's horrible, but it works, for most of them. They get scared of the bogeyman.

The adults have our bogeyman, too. We have a God who is powerful. But it isn't enough for us, it isn't. I sit in the confessional — you know, compare children and adults. I know children who get really mad at each other, throw a rock at the other one, call them awful names. In an hour they're over it. They want to play. Does anyone here know children, say age 4 to 10, who stop talking to another child for two years? I've never heard of it. Ever. They can't hang onto it that long. Adults can. Not talk to their sister for five years, because "She said something at that party so offensive I can never forgive her unless she comes and begs my forgiveness!" And then I don't talk to my sister for five years (not my sister, she's good). Five years. We adults are thick! Thick! We need major surgery on these heads and hearts sometimes. So we have a God who rouses his power, his might, his strength — "Fear the Lord, for he will come!" — and that doesn't even get through.

So I ask the people in confession who haven't talked to somebody for five years: "Do you like how that feels?"

"No, father." But they don't know what to do with it.

So I have a solution today. Listen to this. Listen to the description of God: "Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; indeed, she has received from the hand of the Lord double for all her sins." She's paid the price.

Do we need to do penance and pay the price? Yeah. Because God wants it? No. Because we're thick. We don't get it. Most of us — I should say me, probably not you — I have to fall on my face. I have to have it hit me right between the eyes sometimes before I open my eyes. Why? Because pride is strong. Pride gets in deep. And as adults, we're intelligent people. We can justify anything. We can explain any reason why I'm right and you are all wrong. I'll tell you why I do it this way, because "I've been doing this for 20 years. I'm sure of it." I think we're proud. But we have this God, oh, indeed, he comes with power. And then he cares for us.

Does anybody know the instrument that's called "the king of the instruments"? It's the pipe organ. It's the loudest instrument because they can build it to have 10 ranks, 20 ranks, 150 ranks, 300 ranks. And then they have pipes that are 64 feet long. They're so long, they wrap them. It's like a monster down there. You know it's there. There's power, but it's soft. It's extraordinary. And that's God. God is powerful; he created everything.

But has anybody here ever experienced God slapping you in the face, knocking you down and stepping on you? Not me. And I'm a sinner, not like you people; I'm a sinner, and he's never done that to me. Never. And why? Because when I've been in sin and when I'm most proud and when I'm most stubborn and when I think I'm right, Jesus says this: "What's your opinion? If a man has a 100 sheep one goes astray, will he not leave the 99? Will he not leave all of you and search out me, the sinner?" It's just this way with the heavenly father. He says: "If one of you goes astray and the other 99 are OK, he'll leave you 99 and he'll go after this one astray. And when he finds me — he will search me out and find me — and then he will go back to the 99 and rejoice, 'Come on, look! I've found the one who went astray!'" He will not be lost. He will not let me be lost, because he seeks me out. He seeks you out. He searches us. He wants us. He loves us.

You know, we're celebrating Advent, preparing for the birth of Jesus Christ. This is his message; this is his Gospel. He reveals to us a father whose love for us is without any boundaries or any limits. In fact, when we are sinful, he doesn't love us more, but somehow he searches more or wants that message to be known that we can never be lost. All we need to do is just be willing to say, "God, I need you." And if this truly is a God of power — we kept saying it: the Lord our God comes with power — then why wouldn't we say when we are in trouble, the people who come into confession, I say, "Do you like not talking to someone for five years?"

"No, father. I hate it."

The question I don't ask is, "Well, then why have you stayed there? Why didn't you do anything about it?"

Pride. It affects us all. So I say, "Would you like some help?"

"Yes, father."

"I'll suggest a couple things you might try. If they don't work, come back again, OK?"

"OK."

And one of the things I say, "Why don't you just write a letter to them? Why don't you send a Christmas card? 'You know, it's been a long time since I communicated with you or you with me. I don't like our distance. Merry Christmas.'"

It couldn't take more than two minutes — even 44 cents; I'll pay for the stamp, whatever. Just maybe a little crack in the door will open. Maybe. Maybe the other person is just as proud.

But we keep saying, "Our God comes with power," then let's open up to that power: "God, help me.God, show me the way. God, tell me who to speak to. If it's not Father Perry, let me look up Monsignor McSorley. Let me call the pope. Whatever, whoever. Let me find a way. Help me. Direct me."

Today, we hear about a God of power, but a God more than that — a God of complete love and care and comfort. Let us open ourselves, and if we indeed find this God, break the news to everyone we know, let them know what our God has done for us.

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

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