Tuesday, December 6th, 2022

‘An alium expectamus’: a Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent

Are you the one whose coming was foretold, or should we look for another?  ( Matthew 11 ).  

One of the great dangers of living in the world is its noise. There are so many distractions, a great many of them frivolous or tawdry. Or there are the sometimes idiotic necessities of life that are involved with living in a hyper-bureaucratized society. On and on we could multiply examples. And here, by noise is not meant simply what we take in with the ears: there is such thing as noise of the eyes, and indeed, of all the senses. And all of these noises produce noise of the mind, noise of the heart. And it is this noise that Catholics must resist and fight with no small vehemence. 

Whereas St John the Baptist did his work in the silence and austerity of the desert. Yet it was from another silence—that of his prison cell—that he asks today’s question: Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?

That is the question that needs to be asked by every human heart. But it is noise, in all of its forms, that prevents the question from ever being asked in the first place. This constitutes one of the great tragedies of our time.  

And yet once the question is asked, it demands an answer; an answer concerning which there can be no neutrality. Either Christ is the answer to all expectations or He is not. Enter the virtue of faith, which Trent defines as that “by which we yield our entire assent to whatever has been divinely revealed.” 

We see here that faith is not a sentiment; not a suspicion. It is assent yielded, the affirmation of our hearts and minds given over to God; His truth both asserted and chosen. Doubt enters the picture when there is a short circuit in this process. 

Some months back I spoke about the necessity of trusting in the divine goodness; today, I remind us that we must trust in the divine truth. Today’s liturgy offers the help and reminder. 

The antiphons of the Divine Office speak back upon themselves, telling us about the confidence we ought to have in the divine truth. In the Benedictus antiphon we hear the question asked at the beginning: “Are you the one, or should we look for another?” But earlier during Lauds, this antiphon is prayed by the Church: 

Behold, the Lord shall appear, and will not deceive us: though He tarry, wait for Him, for He will come and will not delay, alleluia. 

The very words St John needed to hear, and indeed did hear, in the darkness of his cell. His faith is rewarded, and he dies for it. His blood is a seal upon a faith invincible. 

But such words are given to us as well. Our various trials and sufferings can cause us to doubt the reliability of God. Confusing events in the Church and world can do the same. But we do well to remember one thing: that deception is the long tactic of Satan. Recall the 3rd chapter of Genesis: 

. . . there was none to match the serpent in cunning. . . . he said to her, ‘What is this talk of death? God knows well that as soon as you eat this fruit your eyes will be opened, and you yourselves will be like gods.  

Genesis III, 1, 4-5.

Satan, the æveternal narcissist, projects his own deceptive nature onto God Himself. He continues this projection today and many souls, even the devout, are taken in by it. Yet God can neither deceive nor be deceived, as St John the Baptist is reminded—and which reminder echoes into the whole liturgy of Advent. 

Thus, in our impatience and perplexity, in our temptations which suggest to us that God may not be true or reliable after all, St John the Baptist is our patron. The sacred liturgy speaks to him and to us, 

Behold, the Lord shall appear, and will not deceive us: though He tarry, wait for Him, for He will come and will not delay, alleluia. 

Homilies & Sermons