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Bishop's Homily for the Second Sunday in Advent

God’s desire is to cloth us with joy and gladness, with his own glory.

By Bishop Larry Silva
December 05, 2021

[Resurrection of the Lord Church, Waipio (25th Anniversary Celebration)]

What were you wearing when you came to Mass today?  While I could talk about whether our dress appropriately expresses the importance of our encounter with Jesus Christ here during the Eucharist, I really am talking about another kind of garment.  Did you come to Mass clothed in hurt because you just had an argument with someone or someone said something hurtful to you?  Did you come clothed in anxiety because you are worried about your health or that of a loved one?  Did you come wearing a robe of mourning because you recently lost a loved one and your heart is still aching beyond belief?  Did you come clothed in armor, defending yourself subtly against the possibility of infection or the judgment you think people may be making against you?  Did you come wrapped up in worry for any of a hundred things we may have legitimate reason to worry about?

I am sure we all come from time to time with the garments of mourning and misery.  But you have come here today, as you do every Sunday -- and as people have been doing in this parish for over 25 years -- because you want so much to take off those heavy and burdening garments and “put on the splendor of God forever.”  As we hear in the prophet Baruch, this is God’s desire, to cloth us with joy and gladness, with his own glory, as if we were being borne in on royal thrones.  In a real sense, a parish is meant to be that place where we cast off deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light so that we can take that light to the world when we leave.

Yes, we often need to make some real changes to fit into these new garments of joy and gladness.  Maybe we need to fill in the valleys of gossip that drag us down as well as everyone who comes near us; or to level the mountain of pride that makes us think we are the saviors of the world, or even gods ourselves.  Maybe we need to straighten out our roads because they twist us into addictions or turn us toward sin, so that we can reach the Holy One who is waiting for us with his healing rays.  Maybe we need to bring down the mountain of indifference that keeps us blissfully blind to the needs of others around us, whether they be the homeless and the hungry, or even loved ones whose sufferings we ignore.  Maybe we need to fill up the valleys of desire, so that we will have greater zeal for the Lord and the light that can come to us by reflecting on his Word and sharing that Good News with others.

As John the Baptist urged those who came to him to plunge into the waters of repentance, of real change in their lives, he was not so much interested in human reconstruction as he was in preparing us all to encounter a person, the person of Jesus.  He was no guru of self-fulfillment, but the precursor of the Lord.  Even John, however, though he knew Jesus intimately as his cousin and his chosen forerunner, did not have the privilege of knowing the wonders that lay ahead after his own untimely death.  He did not know that Jesus would show his love for all by enduring death on a cross, nor that he would rise from the dead and live forever.  He did not know that Jesus would always be present in the world through the Holy Eucharist, the sacrament of his Body and Blood.  Much less did he know that Jesus would allow himself to be immersed in our lives and to wear us as his garments as he calls us into intimate communion with him in the Eucharist.  But all flesh would see the salvation of our God because God took human flesh in the person of Jesus, and Jesus takes human flesh in this beloved people, the Church.

Every program in this parish, every liturgy, every encounter with a parishioner; every song and prayer lifted up in worship, every outreach to the lonely and the hungry is meant to help us all change our appearance.  Every joyful welcoming of a new member in Baptism; every act of support of a new couple beginning their lifetime of climbing mountains, leveling valleys, and walking the straight and narrow together in marriage, is meant to clothe us with strength, courage, and wisdom.  Every shameful sin we have committed that is confessed here is meant to be washed away to prepare us to hold our heads higher, wearing the glory of the eternal name of Love.  Every tear that is shed at a funeral, and every hurt that is soothed because a loved one has been snatched away in death is meant to be changed into hope and gratitude for the loved one whom we allowed to enter our lives so intimately that their death makes it feel as if a part of our own body has been cut off.

What we are wearing when we come into Mass is not as important as what we are wearing when we leave.  Because here in this parish, God-incarnate chooses to clothe himself with us, so that we may shine with a luster from within, and so that going forth from here to our homes, our neighborhoods, and our places of work, all will see that we have been clothed with the glory of God, a cloak of justice, a garment of gladness, and a uniform of joyful witness to Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us.