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Bishop's Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 18, 2022

[Christ the King Church, Kahului; St. Anthony Church, Wailuku]

God can often seem absurd!  In today’s readings we see two examples of this and the hint of a third.

Ahaz was the King of Judah, and his two most powerful enemies had made an alliance to invade him.  He consults with the prophet Isaiah about whether he should form a military alliance with Assyria in order to have the strength to resist this invasion.  After consulting with God, Isaiah advises him to do what seems absurd:  to do nothing, but simply rely on God to take care of the situation.  He even tells the unbelieving Ahaz to ask for a sign, which Ahaz considers absurd.  Then Isaiah makes a prophecy to assure him that God will take care of everything in the end:  “The virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel,” which, as we know, means “God-with-us.”  The sign itself seems absurd!  A virgin conceiving a child?!

Then we see the actual fulfillment of this prophecy, when the Virgin Mary is found with child, not through the action of Joseph, to whom she is betrothed, but with whom she has not had relations.  Joseph, being a reasonable man, concludes that she has been unfaithful and has had an illegitimate liaison with another man, because we all know how pregnancy happens.  Then in what could seem absurd to many, Joseph believes an angel who appears to him in a dream and accepts this incredible story that Mary has conceived not by any man but by the Holy Spirit.  He takes her into his home as his wife.

Then there is Paul, who describes himself as a slave of Jesus Christ, not as a complaint or lament of victimhood, but as his greatest joy in life.  This is from a man who dedicated himself to forcefully making slaves of anyone who dared believe in Jesus.  Yet when he encountered Jesus himself on the road, the most absurd thing happened:  Paul made himself a slave of Jesus, no longer persecuting him and his people, but gladly being persecuted for the sake of the Name of Jesus.

Isn’t it also absurd to believe that bread and wine can become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ himself?  Isn’t it absurd that the all-perfect God should want to enter into the lives of us sinners?  Isn’t it absurd that the all powerful God would choose us weak and sinful people to be his messengers to all the world?  Yes, these things seem so absurd, but they are absolutely true!

Is it absurd to imagine that there would be no more wars in the world?  That no violence or bullying will ever be done to anyone again?  That all children can grow in an environment filled with love?  That dire and debilitating poverty and homelessness can be a thing of the past?  Yes, it is easy to think of these ideas as absurd, given the fact that we know what we know about the history of the world.  Yet this is exactly what God wants, and he has chosen us in his absurd-looking wisdom to make it all come true.

Is it absurd to think that the most important thing we or anyone can do for this world torn by sin and division is to come here to worship, to stop everything else we do in order to simply give thanks that there is a true and living God, and that we are not that god?  In a world in which people have become their own gods, it is absurd to think that worshipping this God will make any difference.  Yet nothing could be more powerful in transforming us and transforming the world than what we are doing here and now.

In a week we will be celebrating Christmas, the birth of the Promised One, the Son of God and Son of Mary.  We will be singing of the seemingly absurd love of God for all of us.  We will be rejoicing with family and friends and with the whole world, because we know in our hearts of faith that the impossible has come to be.  And we sing and celebrate in wonder and awe that what seems so absurd to us is the infinite wisdom of God, which brings us his life, his peace, and the fulness of his love.