Sunday, December 03, 2017

Yes, we need a Savior (1st Sunday of Advent homily)

Now we begin the season the Church calls “Advent.” 
Not the Christmas Season. That begins in 4 weeks, on Christmas Day.

If you want to get a handle on the readings 
we hear at Mass during Advent, think of this way. 
We begin, with today’s readings, with a problem – 
for which Christmas presents the solution. 
And what is that problem?

Humanity needs a savior.

This is not always a welcome point to make. 
When each of us was a child, at some point or another 
we said to our mom or dad, “I can do it myself!” 
And we keep saying it our whole lives long.

The adult version of this is when we think we should get our act together first, 
before we go to confession.
But that’s backwards. Without God’s help, 
we will never get our act together. Never. 

That’s because: we need a savior.

Now, there are two rebuttals to this truth in our society.

The first is simply to deny it. There is no salvation. 
People are how they are, and they don’t really change.
All of us can be tempted to think this way, 
because what is true is that people don’t change easily.

We have all wanted someone to change, 
only to see that hope dashed over and over. 
So it is very tempting to harden our hearts and write people off.

The other response is more seductive:
There are plenty of voices around us that say, 
“Yes, you do need a savior – and that’s why I’m here!”

Sometimes it’s government. Politicians are always promising salvation.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to have good government; 
but I’m here to tell you: government isn’t going to save us. 

Neither is medicine going to save us.
We have made astounding progress, it is true, and we keep going. 
There is good reason to believe that in the next few decades, 
we will witness even more astonishing things.

But we will also witness ways this goes terribly wrong.

There is a huge “fertility” industry, 
that creates human life in the laboratory. 
This is what is called “in vitro fertilization.”
It is understandable that people facing the heartbreak 
of not being able to conceive a child would reach for this.

But it is a gravely sinful manipulation of human life.
What gets overlooked is that this method involves
Creating multiple, tiny new lives, most of which are discarded.
And then these tiny human lives are destroyed 
in the process of being turned into raw material for research.
Yet another iteration of this is so-called “surrogacy.”
There are same-sex couples who are saying, they want to have children. 
Again, embedded in this is a good and wholesome desire.

This is a truth we hate to face: 
that so often, we do evil things for the best of reasons!

So when you have two men, or two women say, “here’s our baby!”
But what gets left out? Somewhere there is a mother, or a father, that that child will never have. 
Women, in particular, are especially exploited by this business.

Technology isn’t going to save us.

Fifty Sixty* or so years ago, our society launched 
on a great experiment, called the “Sexual Revolution.” 
The idea was that if only, if only we could all be “liberated” 
from outdated morality;

If only we could have no qualms about divorce 
and plentiful contraception, and “safe and legal” abortion;

If only there were more “openness”: 
knock down all the restraints on what can be shown in movies, 
TV, or included in books and music;

If only people could just pursue the path that suited them, then:
We would be so much happier, as individuals and as a society.
Marriages would be better; families would be better.

This really was the sales pitch. And now, 50 60* years on, we can see: 
This promise has failed. 

Whether you look at these accusations of 
powerful people preying on others; 
or look at the growing confusion about sexual identity: 
am I a man? Am I a woman? Who am I meant for?

There are so many children growing up with fractured lives.
No one is immune, but it is a crisis in our cities, 
because it is bound up with persistent poverty and loss of hope, 
and that leads to drugs, crime, rage, violence and an early grave.

There are so many people with so much emptiness in their lives, 
and they are filling it with opioid drugs, or with boozy weekends;
or with porn, or with endless entertainment.

None of these things are going to save us!
One of the reasons I am pounding this point, 
is because if you turn on the Internet or the TV, 
or you listen to what comes out of the mouths of lots of people, 
whether in Hollywood or Washington D.C., 
or next to you at the grocery store…

It is all around you and me; we breathe in this mindset constantly.
If you are not alert to it, you will soak it in.

There are a lot of people who aren’t ready to accept 
the failure of all these promises.

It is a brutal thing to accept that your god has failed: 
The gods of government, or science, or sex, 
or individualism or politics or money.
Because when you are forced to admit 
that none of these things are going to bring us salvation, 
then what do you do? 

Then, either you despair -- and many are despairing –
or else bend the knee to the one and only Savior there is:
And that is Jesus Christ! 
Yes, we need a savior. And his name is Jesus.

Advent starts by reminding us: we need a savior. 
You do. I do. Everyone of us needs a savior.

And then it leads us to him. 

He came on Christmas; he will come at the end of time.
He will come in a few minutes, for us, in this Mass.*
His name is Jesus.

* These edits made today.

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