December 9, 2018: Second Sunday of Advent - Associate Pastor’s Corner
Today’s Gospel sets the tone for a dramatic entrance. We look at these beginning statements, and we can imagine the orchestra slowly swelling as these very important political and spiritual figures—figures who had a hand in changing the course of human history—finally climaxing as the Evangelist declares, “the word of God came to John in the desert.” Bah-bah-baaaaam!
Yule Brenner and John Williams would be so very, very proud.
Yet, this isn’t done without any sort of irony. Today, millennia later, we easily assent to Luke’s declaration. Yes, John the Baptist is just as important, or more important, than Caiaphas, or Annas, or Philp, or even Tiberias Ceasar. And in fact—most of us don’t know hide nor tail from most of the names in today’s Gospel at all. Yet, to the first century listener or reader—this is caked with irony and humor.
Let’s reimagine the first verses in today’s Gospel: “In the second year of the Presidency of Donald, when Edmund was Governor over California, when London was Mayor of San Francisco, when Francis was Supreme Pontiff, the word of God came to……Melvin, in his mechanic’s garage.”
What the Evangelist Luke declares is that the Word of God, the immutable, the Creator, the Healer, the majestic, was made manifest in the most unlikely of places—which, by the way, is how He likes it. Out of all of the places the Word of God could have been made manifest, God decides to be declared by a the son of a regional priest in a backwater neighborhood in a nation that had been run over so many times that the land itself has lost count. In other words, the Word of God was declared by a nobody. And the Lord prefers it that way.
This is the power of the Gospel message. That God’s power and influence manifests in the most obscure of places. God’s power is most evident in the places where He is not expected. The power of God is most apparent in places where He is “not supposed to be.”
For myself, the most obvious example of this is Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Here is this little nun, five foot two inches tall perhaps, dressed in a ragged sari and sandals, elderly, seasoned, and experienced in the poorest the world offers, considered a touchstone of Christian charity. She left her convent to follow God’s call with nothing but the clothes on her back and perhaps a little lunch, so that we can find God in the poorest of the poor. Yet, she who had nothing in her pockets—the power of her words and influence! She spoke against abortion to the United Nations, preaching Catholic family values in non-Christian contexts. How many of us remembers how she and Diana, Princess of Wales, stood together condemning the use of landmines in Angola? And even today, how many of us, if we saw the Missionaries of Charity (Mother’s congregation) walk about the streets, would encounter the Lord in the deepest recesses or our hearts?
If an American screenwriter were to write the movie, this is not how the script would go. But if Jesus were to write the script, this is the story He’d write.
Mother Teresa was a nobody; yet today, she is somebody whose words and example inspire us still.
Advent is the season of waiting, yes, but this is also the season of surprise. We are surprised that the Word of God would be made manifest in the middle of no where. We are surprised that our Beloved Jesus would be born in a trough outside Bethlehem.
As we go through the frenetic pace of December, let us have contemplative hearts enough to seek the surprise of God. God is always appearing in the most surprising of places. Do we have the hearts, the eyes, and the ears to allow us to be captured by the Surprise of God?
Fr. Isaiah Mary Molano, O.P.