Sunday, December 13, 2015

Join the Triumph of the Skies - Homily for the 3rd Sunday in Advent (C)



Let us continue on our journey to Christmas….

Hark the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King.
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled….

This song speaks of angels announcing our Savior’s birth. There is a backstory to this—kind of like Star Wars (you may have to watch the previous six episodes if you are going to understand this 7th installment…). If we want to understand what happens at Christmas, and why there are angels “harking,” we are going to have to understand the backstory—which will require us to go back to the beginning of Genesis (and even before the beginning, as weird as that sounds). For, before there was Eden and the serpent and so on, there was a war between the good angels who loved the Lord and other angels (who were created good) but who chose not to love the Lord. The bad angels—called demons—rebelled and there was a battle between Lucifer (Satan) with his minions and Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and all the good angels (including our own guardian angels).

We know that Satan lost and was kicked out of heaven. But the battle did not remain in heaven; the battle was also taken to Eden. It is there that Adam is supposed to do battle with the serpent, the devil, but Adam does not. And so he and Eve fall into sin: they choose not-God.

And so it happens that all of humanity, we who are the generations of Adam and Eve, fall into sin and darkness, cast out from Eden in a kind of exile which humanity continued throughout her history—seen also today in our first reading. Israel had been taken into captivity by her enemies; she had become a people that walked in darkness, praying to see a great light. They live with a hope of restoration, of being returned not only to Eden, but to the heavenly Jerusalem. There was an awaiting for this restoration that would come through the Savior, the Messiah, who would bring her peace and return her to union with God.

That is where peace truly comes from, right? It is when humanity is separated from God that we lose peace. After Adam and Eve had fallen, their sons entered into darkness such that Cain killed Abel. So, we know that when we are not at peace with God, we are not at peace with one another. Nations at war!

The Messiah would come, the Prince of Peace, who would not simply bring peace, but who is peace. And so we hear:

Hark! the herald angels sing!

What does this mean? It means: look! awake! pay attention! Over here is the Messiah! Hark! The one we have expected for so long! The one who will finally bring us peace! Hence the line,

            God and sinners reconciled.

That’s the whole point of Christmas, isn’t it?—that God should enter into our very existence so as to reconcile us with God and thus with others too, to bring about restoration and peace.

And how does this Messiah come? He comes as a little babe:

            Peace on earth and mercy mild.

Mercy, mild. Not severe mercy—severe mercy is what we see in the Old Testament. We see wars, death, and illness. And why? Because Israel in the Old Testament did not listen. What moved them were things like illness and death and hunger and war. They didn’t understand the logic of God. God had to speak their language. They were a Bedouin tribe.

Over the course of history, God prepares them to receive not a severe mercy, but a mercy mild. A mercy so mild, so un-threatening—that it is a babe!

Recently, I had the privilege of baptizing a baby at St. John’s NICU. And as mom was holding her little child—all of one pound and a few ounces—I baptized him (God and sinners reconciled). And in that moment, I saw how vulnerable God was in mercy, so mild…

God could have come with storm troopers; He could have come as Darth Vader or any military leaders of our world. But how does God come? As a little, vulnerable babe. That’s the invitation of mercy mild. An invitation He gives us now in this Year of Mercy.

We can then hear the next lines:

            Joyful all ye nations rise!
            Join the triumph of the skies!

The Triumph! Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, our guardian angels—they were victorious in battle. And now the Messiah comes to bring US victory. And over what? Over sin. Victory given in baptism and, when we make a mess of that, victory in the confessional.

Yes, it is in the confessional that we have victory over sin. We say to sin and to the devil: you shall not go any further! It is like Darth Vader in the final scene of the last Star Wars movie. Vader, he who was so evil, he had to choose—between good and evil—and when he did, finally throwing the evil Emperor down, the once-evil Vader became good. His mask comes off… He was victorious over evil. He was finally free, finally at peace.

To confess our sins is to participate in the triumph of the skies, of the victory of the angels and the Messiah. Indeed, there will be more rejoicing in heaven not over the ninety-nine who are righteous, but over the one sinner who repents (Lk 15:7). The angels rejoice, and why? Because the sinner, when he repents, has conquered sin and participates in the victory.

And there, in the victory, there is joy and there is peace.

When was the last time you were at peace? When was the last time you were “good” with God and at peace with Him? When was the last time you were at peace with your family? When was the last time you had peace in your heart?

Our Lord wants to give you that peace. That is why He comes to you this Christmas. This is the point of Christmas: to bring us peace as God and sinners reconciled.

If it has been over a year since we’ve gone to confession, then we have missed out on what Christmas is truly about: the gifts of God’s peace. If you haven’t been to confession in over a year, it is time to go to confession and receive what Christmas is truly about: your reconciliation and your triumph over evil.

If it has been twenty years, come back. We hear confessions all the time and it is an honor. It is not too late! Now is the time. Now is the day of the Lord’s victory. Now is the day of peace!

This Wednesday, we will have a special time for confessions. Come and enter the triumph of the skies!

Hark the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King.
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled
Joyful all ye nations rise!
Join the triumph of the skies!
With angelic hosts proclaim:
Christ is born in Bethlehem
Hark the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King!

No comments:

Post a Comment