Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Signs of the Kingdom

Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 22, 2013

In the first reading from the Liturgy of the Word, we encounter moments we God asks Ahaz to ask for a sign from God and Isaiah speaks to the house of David about wearying God with so many requests to God and that the Lord will give … this sign:  the virgin shall conceive and then bear a son. (Isaiah 7:10-14)

Let this be a starting point for this homily as we are but some 61+ hours before we encounter that sign mention in Isaiah 600 years before the actual event.  We repeat this event every year on December 25th.  When Jesus was conceived and then born, it was a new beginning.  Were you alive before Jesus was born, would you have written the Jesus epic as we encounter it in the scriptures as well as in our own times.

Would you have had this child Isaiah foretold, this Son of God, this Redeemer, would you have had him conceived and born of an unwed mother?  Would you have portrayed him as being homeless when he was born?  His life, would you have painted a picture of a some times refugee?  Surely you would not have thought such a Redeemer would face torture and crucifixion.  Who would believe your facts if you added a resurrection from the dead?

This is now how anyone except a prophet would have written the predictions of a Savior for humankind.  But that was centuries ago.  Today, however, we do not celebrate a beginning as the 

Bethlehem story was.  In our times we live in the Kingdom of God on the face of our earth.  If you did not know the story, how would you describe this Kingdom were you asked to describe what the Kingdom would look like?  

Surely you would incorporate what Isaiah and some of the other prophets had written:  Jesus this Savior would be a sign of the Father’s love for us.  You would also probably tell stories about saints, lucky people, joyous events, trusting people.  Would you incorporate some of the surprises that we know to be what Jesus did?  What surprises?  Would the poor be promised so much goodness from God in your story?  Would you portray women who became single mothers?  Would gang members have any part of your vision of God’s Kingdom?  Would you enemies be taught as the object of your love in the Kingdom?   Indeed, few if any would include such people or events in the description of the Kingdom.  These individuals and events are signs, like the signs the prophets mentioned years before Jesus’ birth.  Why should the Kingdom be a place for such people?  Why?  Because all of us begin our lives as signs, signs that God loves us.  And we continue to be signs of His love when we fail, when we sin and seek God’s forgiveness and His pardon.

The real surprise for us to realize and accept in our Church today, the Kingdom among us, is, as Pope Francis has written, “a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because (it is a Church) 

that has been out on the streets rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and clinging to its own security.  What the birth of Jesus and the Church’s mission teach us is this:  God’s Kingdom is not a fortress!

Only when we have the fortitude and courage to move outside the walls, when we meet the poor, the lonely, the mentally challenged, the elderly sick, the confused and frightened immigrants of our generation, the marginalized of different kinds. only then can we share int he freedom of God.

Again this is not what most would have portrayed as the Kingdom of God.  It is not what some want the Kingdom of God to be today.  The reality is that all these different people, the ones who may make us feel uncomfortable at times, they are a part of our relationship with God.  Why?  Because, like you and me, they are children of God. 

This is what we are challenged to consider when we look at a new-born child, resting on straw in a manger, who would in just a few years become a man who would bring salvation to every human being from his throne atop Calvary Hill.  This is the mystery we celebrate in just a couple of days.  This is the gift God the Father has given each of one of us.