LEAVE IT AS IT IS: A HOMILY ON THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C
A man had taught his son that whenever a meal is served, it is prudent to reach out to the part of the food closest to you or to reach out to the part that is the least attractive. For example, if meat is served, it is better to take the one closest to you or to take the smallest piece or the least attractive piece. One day, this man and his son were eating and his son discovered that the best part of the meal is closest to his father. He decided to play a fast one on his father. He said “Dad, my Geography teacher taught me that the world rotates this way”, and he demonstrated by turning the plate of food so that the best part is now closest to him. When his father discovered what he had done, his father said, “Well, that is interesting. But my geography teacher told me the world rotates this way”, and he returns the plate to its original position. This drama continued back and forth until his father said “Son, my geography teacher taught me that the world rotates this way,” and having turned it, he added “and I think we should just leave the world as it is.”
Our relationship with God began with God setting the world in a particular way. But our geography teacher (the devil) made us believe that we are disadvantaged with this system. This made us to turn things around. And the rest of our history is a constant drama between us and God. Eventually, Jesus will come to restore the world to its origninal position, without taking away our freewill. The Israelites rejected the reign of God and decided to depend on world super-powers. The consequence of this was that they were taken into exile. God, through Jeremiah, showed them that their exile is a result of them moving away from God’s order, and the punishment is meant to bring them back to God’s plan. God does not intend to abandon them in exile. The prophet Baruch, who is a secretary to Jeremiah was writing from exile to the people who remained in Jerusalem, mourning the possible death of the people on exile. It is to them that Baruch writes the following.
First reading : Baruch 5: 1 -9
Take off the garland of sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on for ever the beauty of the glory from God. Put on the Robe of righteousness from God ; put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting. For God will show your splendour everywhere under heaven. For your name will for ever be called by God, “ Peace of righteousness and glory of godliness.” Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height and look towards the east, and see your children gathered from west to east, at the word of the Holy One , rejoicing that God has remembered them. For they went forth from you on foot, led away by their enemies; but God will bring them back to you, carried in glory , as on a royal throne. For God has ordered that every high mountain And the everlasting hills be made low and the valley filled up, to make level ground, so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God. The woods and every fragrant tree have shaded Israel at God’s command. For God will lead Israel with joy, in the light of his Glory , with the mercy and righteousness that come from him.: He tells them to stop mourning and take on the righteousness of God. The word for righteousness and justice has to do with returning things back to God’s original plan. They are suffering because they had moved away from God’s plan. A return back to God’s plan will bring about restoration. God will not only bring them back from exile. He will give them the glory and peace. He went on to say that God will level all mountains and hills and fill up all valleys.
One way of looking at this analogy is that we have created mountains by making some things very important which are not so important to God, and we have created valleys by making some things unimportant, which God considers very important. For example, they believed that the most important thing is for them to return from exile, but for God, it is more important for them to understand why they are in exile in the first place and to repent of their sins. Baruch was also in exile but listen to how positive he sounds in his letter. We need to learn to leave the world as it has been set by God.
In the second reading, we hear St. Paul, who was writing from the prison, to the Philippians, who were facing a lot of persecution. And in this situation he writes:
Second Reading : Phil 1: 4-6 , 8-11
Brethren : always in every prayer of mine for you all I make my prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.: How can St. Paul he so joyful, so prayerful and so positive even from a prison cell. It is said that in all of St. Paul’s letter, he never used the word ‘joy’ as much as he used in this one. There is this confidence in him that God will never fail us, that He will complete the good work He began in us. Two people can be in the same situation, and while one is positive the other one will be negative. Their positive and negative dispositions does not depend on what is happening around them, but on what is happening inside them. When we have given great importance to things which are not so important and made less important things which are very important, then we will find ourselves thinking we have big problems when we have very little or no problem at all.
This is why John in the Gospel is talking about metanoiete, which is a change of mind, or as we would say today, a change of mindset. Some situations will not change, but how we see them can change. The best way to see things is not according to what your geography teacher has taught you, but according to what God’s georaphy teacher has taught Him. Just leave it as it is.
Gospel – Luke 3 : 1-6
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Ceasar, Pontuis Pilate being governor of Judea , and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, in the high priesthood of Annas And Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness; and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of the one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough ways shall be made smooth ; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.: Did you notice that in the past, people did not have dates the way we have it today. So the way to date things is to name the person who was king at the time. Of course, everybody would know who was king and when. Did you also notice how detailed Luke is in telling us about the kings. He is making a contrast. First there are these kings who are supposed to be the big shots in the society, but as important as they were in the eyes of people, they were not that important in the eyes of God. The bible tells us that to call a set of people “great men” is an illusion. Even when the priest goes on an on about certain people in church, because they are so and so; God just laughs! So, the word of God does not go to anyone of them. Rather, God spoke to someone whom the world would regard as a nobody, namely John, son of a very insignificant priest Zachariah, who lived in the wilderness, in the least attractive part of town.
If you see things from the point of view of your teacher, you would not want to listen to a man like this, because he is a ‘nobody’. But if you go through a process of ‘metanoiete’, you will be able to see things from God’s point of view. We have our own mindset of what is important and what is not. It is important to be highly educated, to be rich, to have a stable family, to have a good job, to be in a high position in the society, to be popular and very influencial. This is what our geography teacher has taught us. But all of that does not impress God. God’s way is the way of holiness. He wants you to become a saint. John repeats the prophesy of Baruch about the hills and mountains. Those things which we have considered very important, must begin to become less important and those things we have looked down upon should begin to be more important and our bent lives should be streightened.
This is how we prepare for the coming of Christ, by changing our behaviour. But our behaviour will not change until we change our mindset. Many people rejected Christ because He did not fit in to their mindset. He was from Nazareth, and they had the mindset that nothing good can come from Nazareth. He is the son a carpenter and a poor, lowly woman, and usually they dont expect much from such people. He is not a rich or influencial man in the worldly sense of it, and He is not very traditional. All these qualities go against the mindset of the people. But God does not see things the way we see them. Many of us are unable to recieve God’s blessings because we have our own mindset of how we want the blessing to come and when the blessing comes in another form, we will just miss it.
That part of the plate which we think is most attractive was kept away from us for a reason. God loves us enough not to give us what is not the best for us. This is why, instead of always trying to turn the plate around, we have to trust God and just leave it as it is.