09 December, 2014

Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent (A) - A call to prophesy


Isaiah 40:1-11
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
…do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
‘Here is your God! (v.9)
Today we light the second candle on our advent wreath. As we prepare ourselves for the great celebrations and joy of the Christmas season, today we commemorate the prophets who brought the word of God to his people. Their number includes Isaiah and all the Old Testament prophets and prophetic guilds up to St John the Baptist, who was sent by God as the forerunner, the messenger ahead of Jesus.

Our commemoration of the prophets should speak to the Church about her vocation in the world. God’s invitation we read in Isaiah is directed to communities of believers throughout the centuries; and today, one of these communities is us – all of us sat here, and our entire Church as a collective. We are the people of God, the Jerusalem mentioned in the first reading, the heralds of good tidings; and in this season of Advent we ought to rediscover our vocation to be prophets in the wider society. A prophet is not much of a fortune teller or a seer; rather he or she is someone who can read the signs of the times and is able to interpret them within the light of God’s purposes. A prophet is one who acts as a channel of God’s plans for creation, cutting through the confusion of the time. A prophet is a person open to the word of God by prayer and the practice of religion. God invites us all to be prophets in this sense. As we see in our reading, A voice says, ‘Cry out!’ (v.6), and this voice is urging us all. We are invited to call out to others and say, ‘Here is your God!’ (v.9)

O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
…do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
‘Here is your God! (v.9)
Sure, people may be slow to respond, wilful in their rejection of the Church, afraid of religious commitments to the point of being paranoid; but our vocation from God does not change – A voice says, ‘Cry out!’ (v.6). Isaiah himself knows this; he knows the difficulties of being a herald of good tidings. Look at the reading; look at his frustration so vividly displayed when he says to God,
‘What shall I cry?’
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field (v.6).
The word used here for “constancy” also means “loyalty” and “loving kindness”. We know, we all know well that human loyalty, even from loved ones, can sometimes be severely tested. Isaiah knows that people are often lukewarm in their love for God, insecure in their searching for him, and often ready to turn away… And yet, it is to these people, to the wider society that God wants us to speak, to call out without fear and to say, ‘Here is your God!’ (v.9) in a very literal sort of way. Here in this church, here manifested in our liturgy is the God whom society looks for in the useless things of the world. Here in this church community God reveals himself as the Prince of Peace, the Emmanuel (God-with-us), the healer of the world, and yes, the Bread of life.

Every year around this time wider society get swamped by a flood of adverts, by endless peer-pressure for hosting bigger and better Christmas parties (possibly even at the cheapest price), by greater and higher expectations about having the best Christmas ever – from September, when we are told we must need a new couch in time from “the big day”, to January, when we are told that we can start a new shopping savings account for the next Christmas, passing through sad slogans such as “this is the season for binging”. And yet, because of this unnecessary pressure, quite often all the expectations for the day reveal themselves a serious let-down – probably because society has not found or engaged with that one thing that alone can satisfy every expectation and it is worth every effort to acquire.
God calls us to be prophets to these people, and prophets to one-another. This Advent, God sends us to society with a simple message, “Forget all the pressure and distractions of the season. Look no further. Here, Here is your God! (v.9)”.

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